W.Va House Passes Bill Banning Abortion at 15 Weeks With No Rape Exceptions

The West Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill Tuesday that would ban abortion after 15 weeks into a woman's pregnancy.

The bill looks nearly identical to a Mississippi law currently under review by the U.S. Supreme Court threatening to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to the Associated Press, worrying some abortion-rights supporters that this is another attempt at completely criminalizing abortion.

The bill would only allow abortions after the 15-week timeframe in cases of medical emergency or "fetal abnormality," with no exceptions for rape or incest, the report added. Two delegates suggested an amendment allowing for exceptions in those cases, but their bid failed by a landslide.

The legislation passed 81-18 in the Republican-majority House and will advance to the state Senate, which is also dominated by the GOP, the AP reported.

Katie Quiñonez, executive director of Women's Health Center of West Virginia, the last abortion clinic left in the state, told West Virginia Public Broadcasting that it's already "incredibly difficult" to get an abortion in the state.

According to the AP, state law currently bans abortions after 20 weeks and requires those seeking an abortion to go through state-directed counseling and wait at least a day before they can undergo the procedure. The state's Medicaid program also stopped paying for abortions in 2018, West Virginia Public Broadcasting added.

Dr. Anne Banfield, an OB-GYN at Davis Medical Center, told the local station the legislation also has the potential to do harm by delaying someone's abortion even in a high-risk situation that qualifies for an exception because there are some gray areas surrounding when that determination can be made.

"Is it enough of an emergency now?" Banfield said. "Is this the time that it's the emergency that we need to deal with immediately? Or is it not? And those are situations that are very challenging."

When speaking on the House floor, Republican Delegate Adam Burkhammer said if it were up to him, he would ban abortion "outright," according to the AP.

"I would argue [the bill] doesn't go far enough," Burkhammer said. "I believe life begins at conception."

While discussing the bill, GOP Delegate Kayla Kessinger said that while she believes more must be done to protect people against rape and incest, she did not support the proposed amendment to allow abortions in these cases, the AP report added.

"I believe that circumstances surrounding conception should never determine the value of human life," she said. "If we believe that life starts in the womb, then it is our obligation to protect and defend life regardless of the circumstances surrounding conception."

While Assistant Minority Whip Delegate Lisa Zukoff said she agrees life begins at conception, she said not allowing victims of rape and incest to get abortions is going too far, citing an example of a 14-year-old girl in her district who became pregnant after being raped by a family member and would not have been able to get an abortion under the bill.

"Is that fair to the girls of West Virginia? I don't think it is," she said. "I think we're asking with this bill to trade one life for another, and to me that's just not acceptable."

Update 02/15/22 5:43 p.m. ET: This story was updated to add more information and quotes from the delegates and Katie Quiñonez.

West Virginia, capitol
The West Virginia House passed a bill banning abortion after 15 weeks of a pregnancy term. Above, the State Capitol Building in Charleston, West Virginia, is shown. Stock Image/Getty Images