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West Virginia Governor Jim Justice Amends Special Session to Include Abortion Policy

The governor wants citizens to have 'more certainty' about the state's current abortion laws

Governor Jim Justice has asked the West Virginia legislature to address the state’s laws on abortion during a special session.

Justice originally called the July 25 special session so that lawmakers could pass his proposal to cut the state’s personal income tax by 10%.

“Once we get the ball rolling, we can keep coming back and chipping away at our personal income tax until it’s completely eliminated,” Justice had said in a statement accompanying his announcement.

On the same day that the session is scheduled to convene, Justice added a second item to the agenda – abortion.

Justice wants lawmakers to “clarify and modernize the abortion-related laws currently existing as part of the West Virginia Code” in order to “ensure a coherent, comprehensive framework governing abortion.” 

The governor wants citizens to have “more certainty in the application of such laws” according to the amendment to his original proclamation.

Lawmakers will also need to clarify what “attendant family services and support to expecting mothers” are provided by the state.

“From the moment the Supreme Court announced their decision in Dobbs, I said that I would not hesitate to call a Special Session once I heard from our Legislative leaders that they had done their due diligence and were ready to act,” Justice said in a public statement. “As I have said many times, I very proudly stand for life and I believe that every human life is a miracle worth protecting.”

Justice’s amendment comes days after a Kanawha County judge granted an injunction to a state law that banned abortion. The law, which was enacted in 1849, went into effect after the Supreme Court repealed Roe v. Wade on June 24.

Circuit Court Judge Tara Salango ruled on July 18 that the laws on abortion in West Virginia were “conflicting and confusing” and granted a temporary injunction against the original law, per WV Public Broadcasting.

“The plaintiffs and their patients, especially those who are impregnated as a result of a rape or incest, are already suffering irreparable harm in the absence of an injunction,” Salango said. “Defendants will suffer no injury from this injunction that is not suffered from the prior half century of non-enforcement of this crime. It is inequitable to allow the state of West Virginia to maintain conflicting laws on its books.”

The 19th-century law made administering an abortion punishable by 3 to 10 years in prison. A person who administers an abortion could be charged with murder if the mother dies.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Kanawha County Prosecutor Chuck Miller argued on behalf of the law during the hearing, which lasted just under two hours. After Salango issued her ruling, Morrisey told the media he plans to appeal the decision.

“This is a dark day for West Virginia,” he said. “As a strong pro-life advocate, I am committed to protecting unborn babies to the fullest extent possible under the law, and I will not rest until this injunction is lifted. The current law on the books calls for the protection of life.”

The plaintiff, the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia in Charleston, is the only abortion provider in the state. The center immediately stopped providing abortions on June 24 once the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health became official.

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