Try Again On Abortion Limits

West Virginians with deep moral concerns about abortion often grow frustrated at the name-calling so prevalent in most discussions of the subject. Proponents of limits on even late-term abortions frequently are accused of waging “war on women.”

That is nonsense, of course. Many of the unborn children abortion foes seek to protect are females, after all.

State legislators who tried and failed to enact limits on late-term abortions now face a test. Having had their bill vetoed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, will they give up or try again?

A bill banning most abortions after 20 weeks of gestation was approved by both the House of Delegates and the state Senate this winter. But the governor vetoed it. He cited two objections, with the first being that staff attorneys advised him the measure probably is unconstitutional. That position reflected federal court rulings overturning similar laws in other states.

Tomblin added that the bill “unduly restricts the physician-patient relationship. … The medical community has made it clear to me that the criminal penalties this bill imposes will impede (advice doctors give to pregnant women) … to the detriment of the health and safety of expectant mothers.”

Having had their bill rejected, its supporters in the Legislature could simply give up. That might be the politically smart course of action.

But this is not about politics – or should not be. This is about limiting late-term abortions.

West Virginia reportedly is one of the few states where late-term abortions remain legal. If other states could adopt curbs on them, why can’t we?

Some lawmakers want to hold a special session this summer to resume discussion of the matter. One idea is to change the ban to one on abortions after 24 weeks of gestation. Relaxing criminal penalties against doctors who perform or advise abortions in some cases also has been suggested.

State Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, has said he believes a bill agreeable to the governor can be devised. Tomblin himself has said he would be willing to consider a different bill on late-term abortions during the Legislature’s next regular session in early 2015.

All involved should ask themselves this question: Between this summer and the next regular session, how many late-term babies will be aborted in West Virginia?

If the answer is even one, legislators should hold a special session to deal with the issue.