Ban with narrow exceptions will take effect immediately upon governor’s signature
CHARLESTON, W.V. — Today, the West Virginia legislature passed House Bill 302, which bans abortion in almost all cases. Both the Senate and House considered and passed the amended bill in a matter of hours on the same day Congressional Republicans introduced a nationwide abortion ban. The ban will take effect immediately upon the governor’s signature, making West Virginia the second state, after Indiana, to pass a new abortion ban since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.
The bill includes narrow exceptions, including for a medical emergency, which is defined to apply only when an abortion is necessary to avert the patient's death or when delay would cause a "serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment." Adult survivors of sexual assault would only be able to obtain an abortion within the first eight weeks of pregnancy and if the patient reports the assault to law enforcement at least 48 hours before the abortion. Minors who are victims of sexual assault would be subject to additional hurdles: forced notification of a parent, even if the minor is a victim of incest, and an additional 48-hour delay following that notice. This bill also requires the patient to provide the police report to the doctor before providing the abortion.
Doctors of Medicine (MDs) and Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DOs) would be subject to loss of their medical license if they violate the law. All other medical providers, including nurses or physician assistants, could be charged with a felony and imprisoned for 3-10 years if they provide or assist with an abortion under any circumstance.
“There is nothing more extreme than a law that strips people of the freedom to govern their own bodies, and our state lawmakers have shamefully forced this despicable bill down our throats, behind closed doors in a matter of hours,” said Alisa Clements, Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic. “This cruel ban insults West Virginia doctors, endangering their patients’ lives while subjecting them to appalling government surveillance, and threatens to put other medical providers in prison simply for providing health care. To add salt to the wound, this bill will prevent many survivors of sexual assault from being able to obtain an abortion by subjecting them to mandatory and onerous reporting requirements to law enforcement. Abortion bans are deadly, and people will be denied life-saving care as a result of this government-mandated trauma.”
“Today, West Virginia lawmakers went against their constituents to shamefully pass an unpopular abortion ban that will have dangerous consequences,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Just hours after Congressional Republicans introduced a national abortion ban, West Virginia lawmakers subverted the democratic process to ram through this extreme bill, and no amount of narrow exceptions make it any less cruel or harmful. This ban puts out-of-touch politicians who don’t even understand pregnancy in charge of people’s personal medical decisions. We cannot and will not stand by as they manipulate the legislative process to vote away their constituents’ fundamental rights and plunge us deeper into a nationwide public health crisis. West Virginians deserve better.”
House Bill 302 also requires physicians to report the date of the abortion and the name of the performing physician to a legislative oversight committee.
An analysis from Stacker.com — which used federal data to calculate which percentage of a state's population lives in counties without access to maternal care — shows that more than 20% of West Virginians live in a maternal health care desert, meaning they live in an area without an OBGYN or hospital offering obstetric care.
Studies show that people who are denied an abortion experience serious physical and economic consequences. They are more likely to experience subsequent poverty, to have insufficient funds to pay for basic living expenses, to have poorer health, and are more likely to be trapped in violent relationships. After being denied an abortion, a person is three times more likely to be unemployed than a person who was able to obtain abortion care.
Abortion bans disproportionately harm people with low incomes, people of color, and people who live in rural areas as they already face additional hurdles to accessing abortion and are least likely to be able to travel out of state for care.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable sexual and reproductive health care, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.