West Virginia’s legislature passes a 20-week abortion ban


Protesters outside the Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center in Dallas, Texas. (Larry W. Smith/EPA.)

West Virginia over the weekend became the first Democrat-controlled state to pass a ban on abortions 20 weeks after conception, on the basis that fetuses can feel pain.

The state’s Democrat-led House the House passed the bill 85-15, according to the Associated Press. The Senate had previously passed the bill 25 to 9, according to the Herald Dispatch. In 2010, a total of 27 pregnancies in West Virginia were aborted at or after 18 weeks of gestation, according to the Centers for Disease Control. (Gestational age there is based on a clinician’s estimate.)

Ten other states have passed similar bans based on the theory that fetuses can feel pain starting 20 weeks after fertilization. They are: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas. Each ban was passed by a Republican-led state legislature, making West Virginia the first state to do so under Democratic leadership.

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) told the AP that he’s concerned the bill could be unconstitutional.

States have seen a surge of abortion restrictions in recent years. More were enacted between 2011 and 2013 than in the entire decade before, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which is focused on advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights. Abortion rates are at their lowest levels in 30 states since at least 1976, they found.

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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