By Dave Andrusko
His veto message was only 127 words long, but what West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) did when he vetoed HB 4588– the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act—can be summarized in even fewer words. Five to be exact.
He totally abandoned unborn babies.
I can live, although the babies can’t, when governors just tell you they don’t want to sign pro-life legislation. That’s where we’re at; we cast our lot with the Planned Parenthoods and NARALs and EMILY’s Lists of the world. Okay, at least we know whose side you’re on. (Indeed, when Tomblin vetoed the bill, Melissa Reed, Planned Parenthood Health Systems’ vice president for public affairs, patted him on the back: “We commend Governor Tomblin for taking a principled stand and vetoing HB 4588, which is an unconstitutional and cruel measure.”)
But when they try to co-opt your response with lofty-sounding introductions like this—“I believe there is no greater gift of love than the gift of life. I have stated this time and again throughout my career and it is reflected in my legislative voting record”—then it makes their betrayal all the harder to swallow.
The governor rolled out the usual excuses, rationale, and pseudo-rationalizations, none of which have kept ten other states from passing legislation that says they won’t execute unborn babies capable of experiencing the horrific pain of abortion.
As NRL News Today reported, HB 4588 had to pass the West Virginia House and make it over to the Senate before time ran out. Suffice it to say that the measure, which looked like it would be bottled up in committee in the House, eventually passed by an overwhelming 79-17 margin.
But there was barely any time left in the session. The Senate amended the House bill and passed it overwhelmingly, 29-5. Then the House had to concur, which it did on Saturday by even larger margin (83-15) than it had initially.
Tomblin had three options. Sign HB 4588, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature. He chose to veto the bill. Even though the margins are overwhelming, the session is over and, for now, Tomblin has stymied HB 4588.
Let me close with what Mary Spaulding Balch, JD, NRLC Director of State Legislation, wrote a little over two weeks ago:
Opponents act as if science stopped in 1973. Ironically, they say proponents want to “take us back.” That is the exact opposite of the truth.
Rather than freezing our understanding of fetal development at what was available to the U.S. Supreme Court more than four decades ago, the bill invites us to look into the window of the womb so that we might know now what we couldn’t know then.
Indeed – because of advancements in science – we know immeasurably more about the developing unborn child than we did in the early 1970′s when Roe v. Wade was decided.
Forty-one years ago, the unborn child, for the most part, did not exist in medicine. But now, with advancements in ultrasound, we can literally see the unborn child and we have the ability to perform fetal surgery to correct problems in utero. Fetal surgery is now frequently occurring at several hospitals around the country and it is recommended that anesthesia be administered when the unborn child has reached 20 weeks of development.
We also know that by eight (8) weeks after fertilization, the unborn child reacts to touch. And that after twenty (20) weeks, the unborn child reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to you or me. With ultrasound, we can see the unborn child recoil away from the painful stimuli.
And, as noted, we also know that for the purposes of surgery on unborn children, fetal anesthesia is administered and that this is associated with a decrease in stress hormones compared to their level when painful stimuli are applied without such anesthesia.
Is the bill constitutional? The United States Supreme Court has never addressed the issue of whether the state can pass a law protecting the lives of unborn babies who are capable of feeling pain because it is based on information which wasn’t available in 1973. But based on this new knowledge, there is an excellent chance that a majority of the Court will say it is.
Ms. Balch called on the governor to “do the right thing.”
He did not.