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Tomblin Vetoes Bill Banning Abortions At 20 Weeks

Reported: Mar. 28, 2014 8:14 PM EDT
Updated: Mar. 28, 2014 10:42 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Heath Harrison) -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed a controversial abortion bill on Friday.

Tomblin said his reason for vetoing House Bill 4588, which would have banned abortions at 20 weeks, was that it was unconstitutional.

"I believe there is no greater gift of love than the gift of life. I have stated this time and again, throughout my career, and it is reflected in my legislative voting record,” Tomblin said in a statement. “However, I have vetoed HB 4588 because I am advised, by not only attorneys from the Legislature, but through my own legal team, that this bill is unconstitutional.The bill is also problematic because it unduly restricts the physician-patient relationship. All patients, particularly expectant mothers, require the best, most unfettered medical judgment and advice from their physicians regarding treatment options. The medical community has made it clear to me that the criminal penalties this bill imposes will impede that advice, and those options, to the detriment of the health and safety of expectant mothers.”

The bill passed both Democratic-controlled chambers of the Legislature this session, following days of debate regarding fetal pain and women's rights. The West Virginia bill was similar to a bill struck down by the courts in Arizona. The U.S. Supreme did not move to reconsider the Arizona bill.

Melissa Reed, vice president for public affairs with Planned Parenthood Health Systems, applauded Tomblin’s decision.

“Abortion is a deeply personal, often complex decision for a woman to make in consultation with her doctor, her family, and her faith, and we cannot make that decision for her,” Reed said in a news release. “We are not in her shoes. And, we commend Governor Tomblin for taking a principled stand and vetoing HB 4588 which is an unconstitutional and cruel measure.”

West Virginia Republican Party chair Conrad Lucas expressed his disappointment with the veto.

"We are saddened tonight by the ruling party's continued attacks on the sanctity of life in West Virginia,” Lucas said in a statement. “Both houses of our legislature succeeded in crafting a bill that would protect life and end abortions in children in the womb beyond 20 weeks, at which point doctors tell us those babies can feel pain.”

Lucas also criticized the timing of the veto.

“Even more galling was the veto of this bill, late on a Friday, literally during the annual Rose Dinner celebrating pro-life beliefs, held in Morgantown by the West Virginians For Life,” Lucas said.

Margaret Chapman-Pomponio, executive director of the pro-choice group WV FREE, agreed with Tomblin’s action on the bill.

“HB 4588 would have taken away a woman’s ability to make extremely personal and often heartbreaking reproductive health care decision,” Chapman-Pomponio said in a statement. “We believe that these decisions should be made by a woman in consultation with her physician, not by legislators. The Governor made the right choice in vetoing this bill and we are heartened by his decision to place his trust in the women of West Virginia and the medical community.”

Chapman-Pomponio said West Virginia has one of the lowest abortion rates in the country.

“This campaign was orchestrated by those who want to push the limits on constitutionality of abortion policy and politicize women’s health,” she said. “We may not all feel the same way about abortion, but clearly the Governor agrees that West Virginia should not be a testing ground for such a dangerous law.”

House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said he was disappointed in the governor’s veto.

"Because of his actions tonight, West Virginia will remain one of a small number of states that allow abortions for the full term of pregnancy, despite the fact the unborn child can feel pain,” Armstead said. “National legal experts have expressed that the bill is constitutional. It is incredibly disappointing that the Governor did not choose to protect the lives of the unborn."



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