In 2013, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey began an internal review of the state’s abortion-related laws, opening the door for the consideration and enactment of more laws protecting women from the harms inherent in abortion and safeguarding the lives of the unborn.
- The West Virginia Supreme Court has ruled that the state constitution provides for a broader right to abortion than the U.S. Constitution.
- A physician may not perform an abortion on a woman until at least 24 hours after obtaining her informed consent and after informing her of the nature and risks of the proposed abortion procedure, the risks of carrying the pregnancy to term, and the probable gestational age of the unborn child.
- At least 24 hours prior to an abortion, the woman must also receive information about medical assistance benefits that may be available for prenatal care, childbirth, and neonatal care; the father’s liability for child support; and her right to review state-prepared materials describing the development of the unborn child, outlining common methods of abortion, discussing the medical risks of abortion, and listing agencies that offer alternatives to abortion. She may review this information either in print or on the state’s website.
- If an ultrasound is performed before an abortion, the abortion provider must offer to show it to the woman. The woman must also be given the opportunity of having the image explained to her.
- The state includes information about the abortion-breast cancer link in the educational materials that a woman must receive prior to abortion.
- A physician may not perform an abortion on an unemancipated minor under the age of 18 until at least 24 hours after actual notice has been provided to one parent, unless there is a medical emergency or the minor secures a court order. The law also allows an abortion to be performed without parental notice if a physician who is not performing the abortion determines that the minor is “mature enough to make the abortion decision independently or that parental notice is not in the minor’s best interest.”
- The state has an enforceable abortion reporting law, but does not require the reporting of information to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The measure pertains to both surgical and nonsurgical abortions.
- West Virginia taxpayers are required to fund “medically necessary” abortions for women receiving state medical assistance. This requirement essentially equates to funding abortion-on-demand in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s broad definition of “health” in the context of abortion.
Legal Recognition and Protection of Unborn and Newly Born:
- West Virginia law recognizes an unborn child at any stage of gestation as a potential victim of homicide.
- The state also criminalizes nonfatal assaults on the unborn.
- The state allows wrongful death (civil) actions when an unborn child at any stage of development is killed through a negligent or criminal act.
- West Virginia does not require physicians or hospitals to provide appropriate, potentially life-saving care to infants who survive attempted abortions.
- West Virginia has enacted a “Baby Moses” law, establishing a safe haven for mothers to legally leave their infants at designated places and ensuring the infants receive appropriate care and protection.
- West Virginia does not prohibit human cloning, destructive embryonic research, or fetal experimentation.
- The state does not promote ethical alternatives to destructive embryo research.
- West Virginia does not regulate human egg harvesting or assisted reproductive technologies.
End of Life Laws:
- West Virginia does not have a specific statute criminalizing assisted suicide. However, assisted suicide remains a common law crime.
Healthcare Freedom of Conscience:
Participation in Abortion and Contraception:
- West Virginia protects the civil rights of healthcare providers, including individuals, hospitals, and other medical facilities, who conscientiously object to participating in abortions.
- West Virginia has a “contraceptive equity” law, requiring health insurance coverage for contraception. The law provides an exemption to employers or insurers with a conscientious objection to contraceptives.
Participation in Research Harmful to Human Life:
- West Virginia currently provides no protection for the rights of healthcare providers who conscientiously object to participation in human cloning, destructive embryo research, or other forms of medical research, which violate a provider’s moral or religious belief.
What Happened in 2013:
- The West Virginia Senate adopted a resolution commending pregnancy resource centers.
- West Virginia considered legislation prohibiting sex-selection abortions, proscribing abortions at 5-months (i.e., 20-weeks) development, regulating abortion clinics and individual abortion provider requirements, and limiting funding for abortions.
- The state also considered legislation that would provide protection for infants who survive attempted abortions, a measure that would establish fetal death or stillbirth certificates or require registration of such deaths, and a measure related to the reporting and/or treatment of suspected prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol.
Recommendations for West Virginia
Women’s Protection Project Priorities:
- Women’s Health Defense Act (5-month abortion limitation)
- Abortion Patient’s Enhanced Safety Act
- Abortion-Inducing Drugs Safety Act
- Parental Consent for Abortion Act
- Parental Involvement Enhancement Act
- Child Protection Act
- State Constitutional Amendment (providing that there is no state constitutional right to abortion)
- Abortion Mandate Opt-Out Act
- Defunding Abortion Providers and Advancing Women’s Health Act
- Coercive Abuse Against Mothers Prevention Act
- Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act
- Joint Resolution Commending Pregnancy Resource Centers
Legal Recognition and Protection for the Unborn:
- Born-Alive Infant Protection Act
- Pregnant Woman’s Protection Act
- Human Cloning Prohibition Act
- Destructive Embryo Research Act
- Prohibition on Public Funding of Human Cloning and Destructive Embryo Research Act
End of Life:
- Assisted Suicide Ban Act
Healthcare Freedom of Conscience:
- Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Act