The West Virginia legislature passed a near-total abortion ban on Tuesday, sending the measure to the governor's desk.
If it becomes law, some Republicans in the state have said they hope it will make it impossible for the state's only abortion clinic to continue to offer the procedure.
The proposed legislation bans abortions with exceptions that include medical emergencies. It also creates an exception for cases of rape or incest, if the incident was reported to law enforcement at least 48 hours before the abortion procedure.
For minors who fell victim to rape or incest, the bill stipulates that if they undergo abortion, a guardian must have been informed about the procedure, and the minor must wait 48 hours before the abortion.
Felony ConvictionThe text of the bill (pdf) also says that surgical abortions can only be carried out at a state-licensed hospital by a doctor with hospital privileges.
Any other person who "performs an abortion or attempts to perform or induces an abortion" but is not authorized to do so under state law—including nurses and other healthcare professionals—would face a felony conviction and "shall be imprisoned in a state correctional facility for not less than 3 years and not more than 10 years."
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, has previously signed several pro-life bills since he took office in 2017.
H.B. 307 stalled in late July when lawmakers failed to come to an agreement. But they resumed debate on the measure on Tuesday, approving the bill in both the Senate and House after debating for several hours while dozens of protesters in pink "bans off our bodies" shirts holding "abortion is healthcare" signs held a rally in the Capitol rotunda.
Both the Senate and the House of Delegates speedily approved the bill after several hours of debate.
Kaylen Barker, a spokesperson for the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, said the clinic will not be shutting down even if staff members are no longer able to provide abortions. Like many clinics that perform abortions, it dedicates most days to services such as gender-affirming hormone therapy, HIV prevention and treatment, and routine gynecological care—cervical exams, cancer screenings—mostly for low-income patients on Medicaid.