West Virginia Governor Signs ‘Born Alive’ Bill Protecting Babies Who Survive Abortion

March 4, 2020 Updated: March 4, 2020

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed legislation on March 2 that would penalize physicians who fail to provide “reasonable” medical care to a baby born after an abortion attempt.

The state Senate approved House Bill 4007, also known as the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, in a 32-0 vote (pdf), and the House of Delegates backed the measure 92-6 (pdf). It was introduced by delegate Ruth Rowan (R-W.Va.) with several co-sponsors.

“It’s unbelievable that we even have to go through this process for something that seems like it’s just common sense,” Justice said at the bill’s signing. “But at the same time, we should be really proud that we’re defending the lives of our most vulnerable. To God above, that baby is worth it.”

Shortly after signing the bill, Justice wrote on Twitter: “I truly believe that every human life, born or unborn, is a gift from God. It was a no-brainer for me to sign the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act today. This new law will protect babies who survive an attempted abortion procedure.”

The newly-signed legislation states that if a physician performs or attempts to perform an abortion that results in a child born alive, they must “exercise the same degree of reasonable medical judgment to preserve the life and health of the child” as they would “to any other child born alive at the same gestational age; and ensure that the child born alive is immediately transported and admitted to a hospital.”

According to the measure, “born alive” means the “complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of that member, at any stage of development, who after such expulsion or extraction breathes or has a beating heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been cut, and regardless of whether the expulsion or extraction occurs as a result of natural or induced labor, cesarean section, or induced abortion.”

Any physician or other licensed medical professional who fails to do so will be subjected to “discipline from the applicable licensure board for that conduct, including, but not limited to, loss of professional license to practice,” the bill reads.

Democrats in the state have largely criticized the bill as redundant and more about sending a political message as opposed to solving an ongoing problem, noting that murder is already a crime in West Virginia.

“A child born alive who would somehow be killed—that would be murder. It would clearly be murder. There’s nobody doing that, and if they do do it, they’re in jail,” Sen. Mike Romano (D-W.Va.) of Harrison County said when the Senate passed the bill last month.

Currently in West Virginia, abortions are illegal after 20 weeks unless the life of the mother is in danger or for cases in which the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.