UPDATE, March 11, 10:25 a.m.: West Virginia’s GOP-majority legislature voted Thursday to override the governor’s veto. The new law banning the dilation and evacuation abortion procedure will take effect in 90 days.
West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) on Wednesday vetoed a bill that would criminalize a medical procedure often used after a miscarriage and during second-trimester abortions.
SB 10, sponsored by state Sen. Dave Sypolt (R-Preston), would prohibit someone from performing or attempting to perform a dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure unless it is necessary to prevent serious health risk to the pregnant person.
The D and E procedure is commonly used in second-trimester abortion care. During the procedure, a physician dilates the patient’s cervix and removes the fetus using forceps, clamps, or other instruments.
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“I am advised this bill is overbroad and unduly burdens a woman’s fundamental constitutional right to privacy,” Tomblin said in a statement. “Among the bill’s prohibitions is a leading pre-viability medical procedure [D and E] that, for reasons of patient safety, is preferred by physicians.”
Under the GOP-backed bill, a physician who violates the anti-choice law would be guilty of a felony and may be fined $10,000 and imprisoned for up to two years. The physician may also face injunction and civil damages.
Republican legislators in several states have pushed legislation to ban the D and E procedure over the past year. The bills have been copies of legislation drafted by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).
Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of WV FREE, a reproductive health advocacy organization, praised Tomblin for vetoing the bill. She said in a statement that the legislation would take away a pregnant person’s ability to make personal medical decisions in consultation with their health-care provider and prohibit physicians from providing the safest possible care.
“These decisions should be made by a woman in consultation with her provider, not by legislators. Politicians shouldn’t play doctor,” Pomponio said. “We are heartened by Gov. Tomblin’s decision to place his trust in the women of West Virginia and the health-care community.”
Republican supporters of the bill are preparing to hold a vote to override the governor’s veto. West Virginia State Senate President Bill Cole (R-Mercer) told the Gazette-Mail that an override vote could come as early as Thursday.
“I believe Senate Bill 10 strikes the right balance between the rights of physicians to practice medicine, a woman’s right to privacy and the lives of unborn children,” Cole said. “The Senate will vote to override this veto without delay.”
Lawmakers can override the governor’s veto with a simple majority vote of the members of both legislative chambers. They have until Saturday at midnight before the legislature adjourns. Republicans hold a two-seat edge in the state senate, along with a 64-36 advantage in the house.
West Virginia’s GOP-majority legislature voted last year to override Tomblin’s veto of an unconstitutional ban on abortion after 20 weeks, which was the the first time a governor’s veto has been overridden in West Virginia since 1987.