FILE - Abortion pregnant pregnancy

(The Center Square) – Legislation that would clarify West Virginia’s abortion ban cleared House committees on Monday and Tuesday and is scheduled for a vote on the floor Wednesday.

House Bill 302, sponsored by Del. Dean Jeffries, R-Kanawha would prohibit all abortions in the state, except when the life of the mother is at risk. The bill does not include exceptions for rape or incest. The bill effectively reestablishes West Virginia’s abortion policies before the Roe V. Wade ruling.

Under the bill, an abortion is defined as the use of any instrument, medicine, drug or other substance or device with the intent to terminate a pregnancy, including abortifacient drugs. The bill clarifies it does not restrict contraceptives, which are defined as anything that prevents a pregnancy by interfering with the normal process of ovulation, fertilization and implantation. The prohibition also does not apply to ectopic pregnancies or when the fetus is nonmedically viable.

The legislation would also establish criminal penalties for any person who performs or attempts to perform or induce an abortion. The crime would be a felony punishable by no less than three years and no more than 10 years in prison. If the pregnant woman dies during the procedure, the guilty party would also be subject to a murder charge. The bill also clarifies that the pregnant woman would not be subject to any of the criminal penalties.

Although West Virginia already had an abortion ban in place that went back into effect when Roe V. Wade was overturned, a court temporarily blocked the enforcement of the ban, citing confusion and potential conflicts with the state’s regulatory framework that was in effect after the Roe V. Wade decision. To clear up the confusion, the legislation would repeal the post-Roe abortion regulations, which would no longer be applicable under the abortion ban.

Legislation to ban most abortions was introduced into the state’s third special session on Monday. Although Gov. Jim Justice originally intended the special session to only focus on an income tax cut, he added the abortion legislation after the court ruling.

“From the moment the Supreme Court announced their decision in Dobbs, I said that I would not hesitate to call a Special Session once I heard from our Legislative leaders that they had done their due diligence and were ready to act,” Justice said in a statement. “As I have said many times, I very proudly stand for life and I believe that every human life is a miracle worth protecting.”

Democratic lawmakers tried to introduce amendments during the committee process, which would have removed the criminal penalties and added exceptions for rape and incest. The amendments failed to garner enough support to make it through committee.

“We tried to amend the bill to allow for exceptions for rape and incest,” Del. Kayla Young, D-Kanawha, said in a news conference. “While those exceptions would be helpful, it’s still not enough for what we need and for what women in West Virginia and people who get pregnant in West Virginia deserve. They deserve to be able to make choices and decisions about their healthcare, about their family. … But we weren’t given any of those exceptions, so unless there’s a medical emergency, there will be zero abortions in West Virginia if this bill passes.”

Republicans have a supermajority in both chambers of the General Assembly.

Staff Reporter

Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and West Virginia for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.