A ban on abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization is considered likely to pass the full West Virginia House of Delegates after passing out of a second house committee on Friday.
HB 4588 passed the House Judiciary Committee on a voice vote with no discussion. It passed the House Health and Human Services Committee, also on a voice vote with no discussion, last Monday. Before that vote, a contentious debate over a procedural move that would have forced the bill out of committee led anti-choice advocates to falsely claim that house Democrats had killed the bill. While that motion failed 48 to 48, some anti-choice Democrats indicated they would have voted for the bill itself even though they voted against the attempt to subvert the normal legislative process.
The 20-week ban “appears greased to pass the house,” Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of the pro-choice organization WV Free, told RH Reality Check. She said she anticipates a hard fight with all of her group’s allies to prevent the bill from passing the senate as well.
Bans on abortion at 20 weeks like the one proposed in West Virginia are unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade, rely on medically debunked notions that 20-week fetuses can feel pain, use medically inaccurate terminology such as “post-fertilization age” and “unborn child,” and would ban only about 1 percent of abortions, most of which are performed for medical reasons.
Chapman Pomponio noted that the West Virginia legislature has become markedly more conservative over the last few years.
“There is an appetite among many in the legislature to use women’s health legislation as a political bargaining chip,” she said.