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Monday, September 26, 2022

West Virginia Legislature Blog

Senate Amends and Passes Abortion Bill

The Senate amended and passed House Bill 302 on Friday evening, legislation that   encompasses a range of abortion policies, and would eliminate any period after conception for an abortion.

The most significant change from the House version is a Senate amendment that eliminates criminal penalties of three to 10 years of incarceration for medical providers who perform abortions. Instead, the Senate version would leave penalties up to the doctor’s medical licensing board. The amendment states:

“A licensed medical professional who violates this code is considered to have acted outside the scope of practice permitted by law or otherwise in breach of the standard of care owed to a patient, and is subject to discipline from the applicable licensure board for that conduct, including but not limited to loss of professional license to practice.”

The bill allows for abortion exceptions for a non-medically viable fetus, an ectopic pregnancy, which is when a fertilized egg implants and grows outside the main cavity of the uterus, or a medical emergency, which is defined as a condition that requires an immediate abortion to prevent the patient’s death or to avoid serious risk of damage to a major bodily function.

In this legislation, a medical emergency does not include mental health issues.

The bill as it comes from the Senate carves out another exception, allowing for abortion in cases of rape or incest provided a report is made to a mandatory reporter in the case of minors or law enforcement in the case of adults, and a medical professional has made an assessment that the pregnancy is fewer than eight weeks gestation. This time was amended down from the House’s 14 weeks in the Senate’s strike and insert amendment. Allowing minors to report to a mandatory reporter was amended into the bill. The House version only allowed for reporting to law enforcement.

The legislation also clarifies that for the sexual assault or incest exception to be granted, the person must receive a medical assessment from a licensed medical professional at a certified healthcare facility that is different from the facility performing the abortion.

The bill specifies several examples that are not considered an abortion: a miscarriage, a stillbirth, use of established cell lines derived from aborted human embryos, treatment by a licensed medical provider that accidentally terminates or severely injures the fetus and in vitro fertilization.

The bill also specifically states it does not prevent the use of contraceptives.

The bill now heads to the House of Delegates.

Also on Friday, the Senate chose not to take up House Bill 301, the House and Governor’s preferred tax relief plan. The bill would have reduced the state personal income tax by 10 percent at at cost of $254 million.

Instead, the Senate adopted Senate Resolution 303, which states the Senate’s intention to provide meaningful tax reform and relief. Senate leadership prefers the elimination of the personal property tax if a constitutional amendment is approved by voters in November to give the Legislature the ability to adjust property taxes. Senator Tarr (R-Putnam) presented the body’s preferred tax reform plan. To view that presentation, click here.

The Senate is adjourned until the call of the President

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