Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

April 5, 2014

Delegate tries to overturn bill veto

CHARLESTON — A Mercer County lawmaker is attempting to overturn a gubernatorial veto of a controversial bill that would have made most abortions in West Virginia illegal after 20 weeks.

House Bill 4588, also known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, cleared both the House and Senate with support from both Republicans and Democrats. However, it was vetoed last week by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who said he feared the measure was unconstitutional and would unduly restrict the physician-patient relationship.

Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, said Friday he has registered a petition for a special session with House Speaker Tim Miley and Senate President Jeff Kessler in an attempt to override the Tomblin veto of the pain capable bill. The legislation in question would have banned abortions in West Virginia after the 20th week of pregnancy and charged doctors convicted of performing such procedures after 20 weeks with a misdemeanor, according to the Associated Press.

Gearheart said his first grandchild was born Tuesday — prompting him to think about Tomblin’s veto.

“You do have more emotions and feelings involved, and it goes to when you try to imagine that type of process with your own grandchild, and imagine the most innocent of life a few months earlier could have experienced the kind of agonizing pain that is represented by abortion after 20 weeks,” Gearheart said. “It just goes to show that within your own mind these are your most vulnerable and we need to do the most to protect them.”

Gearheart said the bill vetoed by Tomblin is different from other similar measures because of scientific evidence showing that an unborn child can experience pain in the womb after 20 weeks.

“Not everything you do (as a lawmaker) is according to a poll,” Gearheart said. “But West Virginia overwhelmingly is a pro-life state. That’s not to say that there aren’t those on the other side because there are. But the vast majority believe in pro-life issues. These issues come from a different perspective because this bill is from the perspective of the unborn child. It is written to protect children in the womb that can experience pain according to scientific evidence after that 20 weeks.”

Tomblin’s office issued a press release last week explaining his decision for the veto.

“I believe there is no greater gift of love than the gift of life,” Tomblin said in the press release. “I have stated this time and again throughout my career and it is reflected in my legislative voting record. However, I am vetoing HB 4588 because I am advised, by not only attorneys from the Legislature but through my own legal team that this bill is unconstitutional as shown by the actions of the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Tomblin also argued that the bill unduly restricts the physician-patient relationship. “All  patients, particularly expectant mothers, require the best, most unfettered medical judgment and advice from their physicians regarding treatment options,” Tomblin said in the earlier statement.

It would take support from three-fifths of the members of each house of the Legislature to compel the governor to schedule a special session for the topic. Gearheart said his request is for the special session to coincide with a special session expected in May to address the minimum wage bill adopted by state lawmakers.

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

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