Delegates approved six pieces of legislation Wednesday including a Senate bill that allows emergency responders, doctors, and family members to administer a drug to reverse the effects of an overdose. But it was House Bill 2568, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act that got the most discussion on the floor before it was ultimately approved.
Members of the House debated the 22-week abortion ban for nearly two hours on the House floor. Republican and Democratic members alike stood to back the bill including Delegate Lynne Arvon from Raleigh County.
"This is about protecting a five month old or above unborn baby from pain. Period. That’s what we’re discussing today," Arvon said, "We’re not discussing whether we should have abortion or not. If this bill passes, abortions will be allowed up to five months for any reason. I don’t agree with that, but we have to start somewhere. And there is a debate about whether the baby experiences pain or not, but there’s not debate in my mind. I carried three children, I said that yesterday, I know they experience pain."
Delegate Tom Fast of Fayette County said the government has a right to protect lives.
“The reason we have these laws is because government has a civil duty to protect human life," Fast said, "I hear over and over and over again about a woman’s right to choose. We had a debate yesterday about rape and incest. I can be sympathetic with those situations, truly, they are bad situations, but you have to understand, we need to understand that Government has a duty to protect human life. The Scripture was quoted a minute ago. Where does that duty come from? That duty comes from Almighty God that gives individual rights, that gives family rights, that gives church rights, and it also gives rights and duties to civil government.”
Delegate Saira Blair of Berkeley County expressed concern for the fathers of unborn children.
“She has every right to visit her doctor and consult her doctor about what to do, she has every right to visit her minister and make decisions, but one thing that I’m really interested in today is that not once has she had the right to visit the father of the child either," expressed Blair, "and I will never understand that, and I know that there are a lot of men in here right now who would like to stand up and say, well you know where’s my decision? But they can’t, and so I would like to stand up for them, because they would come off as selfish, but it’s not selfish, it’s just as much your decision. And I think this is the first step we can take to representing, not just the child, but the father of the child as well.”
Only Democratic Delegates stood to oppose the abortion ban, including Delegate Nancy Guthrie of Kanawha County. Guthrie said she supports funding for family planning and birth control to prevent future abortions.
"And finally, what I’m really for, and I pray that all of you gentlemen in this room, I’ve said it before and I will say it again, would start to campaign for mass production and use of male birth control," Guthrie said, "because to be honest with you, I’m tired. Every single year, we have a bill like this that comes before us, and it’s never about you, it’s never about you, it’s always about us. Why don’t you be in charge of reproductive health for the next couple of decades?”
Delegate Dave Pethtel of Wetzel County said he stood with women and is against the bill.
“Ladies, I’m proud to stand with you today, in speaking and voting against this bill, because I believe that when a woman has to make one of the most difficult decisions in her life on whether or not to have an abortion," noted Pethtel, "especially in high risk, complicated pregnancies, that decision should between her, her doctor, her family, and her God, not the Government. Never the Government. Because the law is that a woman does have the right to choose, and it’s really no one’s business.”
Delegate Linda Longstreth is a Democrat who stood to back the bill, but says she’s still concerned with some of its provisions.
"I asked yesterday and argued the point about rape and incest that seemed to be overlooked today for the fact that yes, there are young children who are raped, nine, ten years old with no support. Do you ask them to carry that child to complete term? And what do they do with that child? Will she make it that long without committing suicide? We don’t know, that is not our choice to make, and that’s a very personal, very personal thing," Longstreth said, "I’m going back to what I said yesterday about the United States, the House of Representatives. They will not pass this bill themselves until these exceptions are put in, because they found it too restrictive. I’m saying today, this is restrictive, vote your conscience."
The bill was ultimately approved by lawmakers on a vote of 87 to 12. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.