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West Virginia House of Delegates Passes Chemical Abortion Advice Bill

CHARLESTON — The bill requiring pregnant women to be told about ways to stop a chemical abortion made its way out of the West Virginia House of Delegates on Wednesday.

House Bill 2982, the Second Chance at Life Act, passed 83-15 Wednesday with seven Democratic members voting with the Republican majority. The bill now heads to the state Senate.

The Second Chance at Life Act would require women seeking a chemical abortion to be informed that “It may be possible to stop the intended effects of a chemical abortion utilizing mifepristone if the female changes her mind …”

Chemical abortions utilize two pills, with doctors dispensing mifepristone first and then misoprostol. HB 2982 would require the patient, before undergoing the medical abortion, to be informed that it may be possible to stop the abortion and inform the patient where to find additional information.

The bill also requires the doctor to give the patient specific discharge instructions that give more information about stopping the chemical abortion. The bill requires physicians to inform patients that “If you change your mind, it may be possible to avoid, cease, or even to stop the intended effects of a chemical abortion utilizing mifepristone, if the second pill has not been taken. Please consult with a health care provider.”

The Department of Health and Human Resources also would be required to create materials and handouts to inform women about the possibility of stopping a chemical abortion and inform them about additional information. Neither the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration endorse stopping a chemical abortion.

House Democratic members attempted to amend the bill Tuesday. A successful amendment by Del. Lisa Zukoff, D-Marshall, makes the father liable for up to 50 percent of medical expenses at conception of a child, including hospital and delivery costs and the cost of an abortion.

An unsuccessful amendment by Del. Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, would have required chemical abortion patients to be informed of limited studies on the success of stopping a chemical abortion while there is strong evidence that stopping a chemical abortion can cause serious medical issues, such as hemorrhaging. She spoke against the bill Wednesday.

“It meant micromanaging the medical profession and mandates that they are required to tell all patients about that, and then doesn’t mention that there could be side effects, regardless of if they’re serious or not,” Fleischauer said. “Side effects are something that’s important, especially when something is off-label.”

A double-blind placebo study in 2019 by the University of California-Davis found three out of 12 women who took part in the study taking mifepristone and progesterone experienced severe bleeding issues. Two of the women with bleeding issues had a placebo for their second pill instead of progesterone. Researchers halted the study after the three bleeding incidents.

“They could also get infection and have other problems where they may need surgical therapy to fix that, so that can happen,” said Del. Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, an obstetrician and gynecologist. “But if they take that first step, the fetus is still alive. They can decide, ‘do I not continue that? What if I change my mind?’ Well, then it’s for that person. It’s 50-50. If that fetus is still alive, it’ll go on like a normal pregnancy.”

Both Dels. Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, and Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, spoke against the bill, raising concerns about legislating the advice a doctor gives to a patient. A federal judge issued an injunction in February against a similar law in Tennessee.

“What the bill says is we don’t trust doctors to provide women with as much information as possible, so we’re going to force them and tell them how to practice,” Pushkin said. “More importantly, it also says that we don’t trust women to make right decisions for themselves.”

“I think the question before us today is whether it’s appropriate and whether it’s lawful to compel speech that a federal judge has just ruled to be untruthful and misleading,” Hansen said.

Del. Tom Fast, R-Fayette, said the Second Chance at Life Act is simply an informed consent bill, giving pregnant women information and options.

“It speaks to the other person in the equation,” Fast said. “In these situations, let’s not forget there are two people. You have the mother, and you have the unborn child. Telling the mother … if you change your mind, it may be possible to reverse this first medication. I think that is the cap on informed consent.”

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