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Pro-choice protest

An abortion rights activist holds a placard saying, "Abortion bans replace freedom with force," in Bloomington, Indiana on September 15, 2022. On Friday, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed a near-total ban on abortion care. (Photo: Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

'Cowardly and Despicable': West Virginia Gov. Signs Abortion Ban Into Law

"Banning abortion behind closed doors, days after a nationwide abortion ban was introduced equals being scared of your constituents."

Julia Conley

West Virginia on Friday became the second state in the U.S. to pass an abortion ban into law following the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, one day after Indiana's new ban went into effect.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice abruptly announced at a press conference that he had privately signed House Bill 302, which passed in the legislature earlier this week.

"Is it 'logical' to make patients wait until they're on the brink of death to get a lifesaving abortion?"

"It is absolutely done," Justice told reporters.

The bill will go into effect immediately, and the state's only abortion clinic, Women's Health Center of West Virginia in Charleson, started canceling dozens of abortion care appointments earlier this week following the passage of H.B. 302.

The law bans abortions at any stage of pregnancy and is written to permit abortion care in cases of a fetus that is not medically viable, an ectopic pregnancy, or a medical emergency—exceptions that Justice said qualified as "reasonable and logical."

Recent cases in Texas and Louisiana have demonstrated that in practice, such exceptions can result in hospitals and doctors waiting until a pregnant person's life is in danger before providing care, or forcing them to carry a nonviable pregnancy for weeks.

"Is it 'logical' to make patients wait until they're on the brink of death to get a lifesaving abortion?" asked Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

The law also imposes restrictions on people whose pregnancies are the result of rape or incest. Adult survivors cannot obtain abortion care after eight weeks of pregnancy and must report their assault to the police, while minors have until 14 weeks of pregnancy and must either file a police report or be treated for their assault in a hospital—or else they will be forced to continue the pregnancy.

"Most people don't come forward to law enforcement to report rape and incest because, frankly, victims are not believed," Katie Quiñonez, executive director of the Women's Health Center of West Virginia, told West Virginia Metro News. "The reporting process is incredibly traumatic, and most people don't want to be re-traumatized after they have just experienced assault."

Planned Parenthood of South Atlantic West Virginia warned that the ban will be "deadly" for West Virginians and condemned Justice for unexpectedly announcing that residents no longer have access to care after signing the bill behind closed doors.

"Banning abortion behind closed doors, days after a nationwide abortion ban was introduced equals being scared of your constituents," said Planned Parenthood Action Fund.


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