House Passes 15-Week Abortion Ban Bill and Fetal Body Parts Bill | News, Sports, Jobs

Delegate Lisa Zukoff holds a photo of her daughter during a discussion of a bill banning abortion after 15 weeks. (Photo provided)

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday passed bills creating a 15-week abortion ban and banning the sale in the state of certain fetal body parts.

The House passed Bill 4004 banning abortions after 15 weeks gestation, in an 81-18 vote on Tuesday afternoon.

Delegates Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, Nathan Brown, D-Mingo, Ed Evans, D-McDowell and Ric Griffith, D-Wayne voted with the Republican majority. Mercer County Republican delegate Joe Ellington, a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology, was the only no in the majority caucus.

Delegates also passed House Bill 4005 banning the sale or collection of fetal body parts in the state under certain conditions in a vote of 82 to 15. The bill is a similar federal ban on sales of fetal body parts across state lines.

HB 4004 would prohibit licensed medical professionals from performing abortions if the gestation period of the fetus is more than 15 weeks. Currently, West Virginia prohibits abortions beyond 20 weeks.

HB 4004 includes exemptions for medical emergencies or in the case of severe fetal abnormalities. An unsuccessful amendment proposed by Delegates Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, and Lisa Zukoff, D-Marshall, would have offered additional exemptions to the proposed law for cases of rape or incest.

“Today, I propose this amendment to protect the girls and women of West Virginia who are negatively affected by non-consensual rape and incest committed with force and violence, and traumatizing affected women,” Zukoff said. “If we pass this bill today, we take five weeks of decision-making away from these women and children.”

The Zukoff Amendment was defeated 21-78, with Brown voting no and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Moore Capito R-Kanawha voting yes. Zukoff, a member of the House Judiciary and Health and Human Resources committees, had proposed the same amendment twice when HB 4004 came before those committees, with those amendments defeated each time.

“I think we are asking with this bill to trade one life for another,” Zukoff said. “To me, that’s just unacceptable.”

Delegate Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette, said she appreciates the intent of Zukoff’s amendment, but she believes cases of rape or incest should not be used as excuses to terminate a pregnancy .

“Sexual violence against women is something we don’t talk about enough in this forum and in this country,” said Kessinger. “While I appreciate the fact that we are having this conversation, I believe that the circumstances surrounding conception should never determine the value of human life. If we believe that life begins in the womb, then it is our duty to protect life regardless of the circumstances surrounding conception.

Delegate Adam Burkhammer, R-Lewis, said he supports the bill. However, he argued that this does not go far enough, believing that all abortions should be banned without exception.

“If it was up to me, we would ban it outright, but that’s not the bill before us,” said Burkhammer. “We are taking steps in a positive direction, but for those who think this bill goes too far, I would say it doesn’t go far enough.”

Delegate Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, has been open about her abortion procedure over the years. She said Republicans use the power of government to make decisions that should be left between a woman and her doctor.

“Time and time again, this state legislature decides to spend our time and resources imposing more and more restrictions on abortion care,” says Walker. “With the number of restrictions on this care that already exist, we have already made this service difficult to access.”

If passed by the Senate and signed into law, the 15-week abortion ban in West Virginia would mirror a similar law in Mississippi. That law has been challenged in federal court, with the U.S. Supreme Court hearing arguments in the case last year. Florida and Arizona are also considering similar bills. Abortion opponents believe a Supreme Court majority could use the Mississippi case to throw out Roe v. Wade, the 1972 decision that legalized abortion.

HB 4004 and HB 4005 are heading to the Senate for further consideration. Speaking after Tuesday’s floor vote, Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of women’s reproductive rights group WV FREE, said she hoped the bill could still be stopped or amended in the Senate.

“West Virginia House basically eviscerated Roe vs. Wade today”, said Pomponio. “This is outrageous and the people of West Virginia need to wake up and stop this from happening in the Senate.”

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