W.Va. House Dems call ‘Born Alive’ abortion bill an election stunt, few vote against it


The West Virginia House of Delegates has passed a bill that would penalize doctors who fail to provide medical care to a fetus that survives an unsuccessful abortion. Minority Democrats called the measure an election-year political stunt that accomplishes nothing, but many voted for the measure anyway.

House Bill 4007, known as the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, passed a 93-5 vote. The proposal calls on doctors to exercise “reasonable medical judgment” in the event of a failed abortion.

Ahead of Wednesday’s vote, various groups supporting abortion rights and their lobbyists sent a letter to lawmakers urging them to vote against the bill. But each group’s position was more nuanced than that.

West Virginia Free and the State Chapter of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said they wouldn’t appreciate any votes but fully understand those who support the bill.

The ACLU of West Virginia took a similar stance – saying it opposed the bill but would not target those who voted for it in the next election cycle.

But Planned Parenthood Votes South Atlantic has explicitly said it encourages opposition to the bill and will notify supporters of lawmakers’ votes.

As debate on Bill 4007 worn on Wednesday, a mix of those sentiments informed the speeches of Democrats. Of the. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, started the measurement discussion.

“This bill does absolutely nothing. He’s proposing to make something illegal that’s already illegal,” Doyle said. “I think it makes absolutely no difference how I vote or how anyone else votes on this bill. He shouldn’t be here because he’s not doing anything.

Tom Fast, R-Fayette, argued the measure was necessary to protect life. He painted a picture of a situation a doctor might face if a fetus were to be born after an unsuccessful abortion procedure.

“When you have a live baby that was just born – whatever the intention was moments before, but when you have this live baby lying on the table – what you don’t do is ask a doctor to say that we’ll just have a talk with a mother and see what to do,” Fast said. “That’s what you’re not doing. You’re helping this kid, you’re working with this kid. like it’s your daughter or your son lying on that table. You give that child that person who does medical care. That’s what this bill does.”

Of the. Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, read veto messages from the governors of Montana, North Carolina and Wisconsin regarding similar measures. He noted that the head of WVU’s OBGYN Department of Medicine says the likelihood of this bill affecting West Virginians is “extremely low.”

Hansen also argued that other issues should take precedence at the start of the legislative session.

“Yesterday I attended the hunger caucus meeting. People from both sides were there and we learned that one in five children in West Virginia — children who were actually born alive — are hungry,” Hansen said. “But we don’t get into that in the first week of the session.”

Of the. Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, also focused on the controversial nature of the issue. Ultimately, Pushkin voted in favor of the bill.

“It’s ridiculous and it’s unhealthy to use this as a political tool. I think the point of this bill is to get a few of us to vote against it so you can run these ads,” Pushkin said. “Personally, I don’t think it changes the standard of care. I am pro-choice. I think I’ll still be a pro pick after I don’t fall for your trap.”

Of the. Sammi Brown, D-Jefferson, asked House Health and Human Resources President Jordan Hill, R-Nicholas, about the science behind the underlying problem. She pointed out that the only abortion provider in West Virginia is self-imposing a ban on the procedure after 16 weeks gestation and that state law prohibits the procedure after 20 weeks. Brown noted that a fetus is unable to survive at such an early stage.

She concluded her comments on the bill by saying that House Bill 4007 was a political maneuver.

“I am all for a policy that will protect mothers, that will protect infants, that will protect life. But that’s just not it,” Brown said. “It is my responsibility – and yours – to protect individuals within your respective communities, not to disenfranchise them and not play with rhetoric designed to divide us all.”

Deputy Majority Leader Del. Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette, closed the debate on the measure by offering a horrifying story about an abortion provider in another state. She argued that her practice highlights the need for House Bill 4007.

“Not too long ago – a few years ago – Kermit Gosnell in our neighboring state of Pennsylvania and was convicted of murdering babies after birth. He literally cut their spinal cords, left them on a table, and literally put these babies’ heads in the fridge, where his staff kept their lunch,” Kessinger said, citing films about Gosnell. “My goal in West Virginia is to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

The Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act was opposed by five Democrats. Four of those five votes against the bill came from delegates representing the 51st District, which covers most of Monongalia County.

HB 4007 is now heading to the Senate for consideration.

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