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West Virginia Legislature Passes Near-Total Abortion Ban

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s Legislature passed a sweeping abortion ban with few exceptions Tuesday, approving a bill that several members of the Republican supermajority said they hope will make it inconceivable for the state’s only abortion clinic to proceed to supply the procedure.

“It’s going to shut down that abortion clinic, of that I feel certain,” Republican Sen. Robert Karnes said on the Senate floor, amid shouts from protesters standing outside the chamber doors. “I feel it’s going to avoid wasting plenty of babies.”

Under the laws, rape and incest victims would have the opportunity to acquire abortions at as much as eight weeks of pregnancy, but only in the event that they report back to law enforcement first. Such victims who’re minors would have until 14 weeks to terminate a pregnancy and must report back to either law enforcement or a physician.

Rape and incest victims would should report the assault inside 48 hours of getting an abortion, and a patient must present a duplicate of a police report or notarized letter to a physician before the procedure will be performed.

Abortions also could be allowed in cases of medical emergencies.

The bill now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Jim Justice, who has signed several anti-abortion bills into law since taking office in 2017. Lawmakers resumed debate on the bill Tuesday after failing to come back to an agreement in late July, giving up the prospect for the state to turn out to be the primary to approve recent laws restricting access to abortions for the reason that U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June removing its protected status as a constitutional right.

Each the Senate and the House of Delegates speedily approved the bill, after several hours of debate.

Lawmakers inserted several provisions they said were specifically targeted on the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, which was the state’s first abortion clinic when it opened in 1976 following the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark case Roe v. Wade. It has existed because the state’s sole abortion clinic for years, making it the ever-increasing goal of anti-abortion lawmakers and protesters.

The bill states that surgical abortions can only be performed at a state-licensed hospital by a physician with hospital privileges. Anybody else who performs an abortion, including nurse practitioners and other medical professionals, could face three to 10 years in prison. A physician who performs an illegal abortion could lose their medical license.

Pregnant individuals who obtain illegal abortions won’t face any type of prosecution under the bill, nonetheless.

Kaylen Barker, spokesperson for the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, said the clinic won’t be shutting down, even when the staff isn’t any longer capable of provide abortions. Like many clinics that perform abortions, the ability didn’t offer the procedure each day.

Most days are dedicated to services like gender-affirming hormone therapy, HIV prevention and treatment and routine gynecological care — cervical exams, cancer screenings — mostly for low-income patients on Medicaid with nowhere else to go.

Democratic Sen. Owens Brown, West Virginia’s only Black senator, spoke against the bill before it passed the Senate. He said when he looks around at his fellow lawmakers, he sees a body that’s overwhelmingly comprised of white, middle-aged to elderly men who’re middle-class or above.

Brown compared groups of men passing laws that overwhelmingly impacts women to laws that were passed by white lawmakers when slavery was legal within the U.S. He said “all laws aren’t good laws made by men.”

“That’s somewhat irrational in some ways to have the opportunity to use a law that can never apply to you,” he said to his fellow lawmakers. “It’s easy for you to sit down there and do this since you won’t ever should face the implications of your actions.”

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