Thursday, February 27, 2014
The Sanctity of Life
A news story from the Thursday, February 27th, 2014 edition of the Martinsburg "Journal" newspaper, by Erika Wells: CHARLESTON - A bill to prohibit abortion after 20 weeks passed the House by a 79-11 vote on Tuesday. Delegate David G. Perry, D-Fayette, drafted a bill, HB 4588, to protect unborn children who are capable of experiencing pain about 20 weeks after fertilization, except when the mother has a medical emergency. "The point of the bill is to prevent abortions after the 20th week because babies are capable of feeling pain," said Delegate Eric Householder, R-Berkeley, who voted for the bill. "Some of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle tried to make it sound like basically, we were prohibiting abortions. That's not what the bill's about." Assistant Majority Whip Tiffany Lawrence, D-Jefferson, who voted against the bill, said there is similar legislation in other states that has been ruled unconstitutional. Lawrence said the bill infringes on privacy. "My vote against HB 4588 wasn't a pro-choice or pro-life vote." Lawrence said. "It was a pro-constitution vote. ... As a legislator, I took an oath to uphold the constitution. The bill also violates the federal (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) laws by asking for and collecting patient information that is currently protected." Household said the bill does not violate HIPAA regarding deciding to have a legal abortion. "If someone can make the choice to go in to have an abortion on the second week or third week, there hasn't been a violation of HIPAA," he said. Lawrence said the bill, which provides for civil and criminal penalties, fails to provide provisions to protect physicians and omitted additional exceptions. "I was also concerned that the bill did not address situations where rape and incest exist," Lawrence said. "The bill provides for prosecution of physicians who are helping save a woman's life and imposes criminal penalties on these physicians which is extremely concerning to me. ... We have decisions on the books that state Roe v. Wade is the law of the land." Perry said there is existing code that provides for such exemptions, and a West Virginia or federal court would have to determine the constitutionality of the bill. Householder said the majority of the women in the House voted for the bill. "Of the women that voted, there werer 15 women that voted yes," Householder said. "Six women voted no, so the majority of the women in the House support this bill." Delegate Larry D. Kump, R-Berkeley, who voted for the bill, said one of the amendments made Tuesday was to specify times served by violators between one and five years. "The bill was open-ended to where if a doctor did violate the provision, the way the bill was written-written by the Democrats-with a provision said that they could have one year or longer," he said. "It could be 100 years that someone serves." After an apparent discrepancy over committee hearings and whether the bill was properly discussed, the bill passed. Householder, who serves on the Judiciary and Health committees, said those who oppose the bill based on claims that it violates the Constitution should have allowed for more thorough review of the legislation. "If they felt that there were constitutional issues with the bill, then they should have allowed us to work it out in the committee process," said Householder. "Unfortunately, I know some are upset, but the ones that were leading the charge out there Tuesday night were also the ones that were preventing any debate in any committee." Perry said the bill was discussed for about three hours on the floor on Tuesday. A physician in the House said doctors consider a fetus a child at this stage, said Kump. "It's a moral issue," Kump said. "I understand both sides, but when it comes down to it, a child's life has to be protected." The bill will go to the Senate.