CHARLESTON — Despite passionate pleas from members opposed to the bill, the state house of delegates approved House Bill 4588 Tuesday evening on a 79-17 vote. The bill has been titled the “protecting unborn children who are capable of experiencing pain” act. It would essentially ban the abortion of babies in West Virginia after 20 weeks of gestation.
Opponents of the bill, including Kanawha County Delegates Meshea Poore and Nancy Guthrie made lengthy arguments, challenging the constitutionality of the bill and maintaining that a woman has a right to choose abortion, if she wishes.
Poore even went so far as to request that the bill be read in its entirety, delaying the final vote for more than 25 minutes as the clerk read it. Several Republican members of the house used the reading time to step from the chamber. After the reading, Poore criticized them and maintained many did not even know what was in the legislation.
The bill created a wave of controversy in the house earlier when Republicans attempted to speed up its passage by having it discharged from the committee on health and human resources. When that move failed, Republicans as well as West Virginians for Life labeled a negative vote as “pro-choice.” That caused several coalfield Democrats to claim they are actually pro-life and voted against the discharge motion only to uphold the “committee process.” Only Democrat Jeff Eldridge of Lincoln County and Moye of Raleigh voted to discharge the bill, along with members of the GOP.
When the bill was actually voted on Tuesday evening, however, the coalfield Democrats joined Republicans and most other Democrats in supporting the legislation.
Area delegates who voted for the bill were Josh Barker of Boone County, Eldridge, Justin Marcum and Harry Keith White of Mingo; and Ted Tomblin and Rupie Phillips of Logan.
The bill will now move on to the state senate for consideration.