Gov. Jim Justice has signed into law a controversial bill that would force doctors to use “reasonable medical judgement” in the event of an unsuccesful abortion. The new law, which has been taken up by other red state legislatures in recent years, has been seen as largely symbolic — considering laws protecting newborns are already on the books.
At a Monday bill signing ceremony, Justice was surrounded by fellow Republicans — as well as those from West Virginians for Life, an anti-abortion rights group who has endorsed him for re-election.
“I stand for life — in all cases, at all times,” Justice said Monday.
Under House Bill 4007, the state medical board could revoke a doctor's license if they fail to provide medical care as they would for a fetus of the same gestational age.
Justice said it was “unbelievable, to tell you the truth, that we have to do such a thing," referring to the legislation just before he signed it.
Medical profressionals have said instances of fetuses being born alive post-abortion are rare. Elizabeth Nash, state policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, has said such proposals come up around election seasons to “gin up the base in some way.”
Democrats in the state Legislature called the bill an election year stunt that attempts to address a problem that does not exist. Still yet, many of those in the minority party voted in favor of the measure.
Republicans painted a picture in which a fetus would be clinging to life and could survive with proper care.
West Virginia currently bans abortions after 20 weeks of gestation. The state’s lone abortion provider in Charleston self-imposes a ban at 16 weeks. But a fetus is generally not considered viable until 23 weeks.
The United States Senate rejected last week sending a similar piece of legislation to a final vote.
The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.