By Dave Andrusko
Pro-life West Virginians were shocked when Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who campaigned as pro-life, vetoed HB 4588, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
Yesterday, a coalition of pro-life groups, lead by West Virginians for Life, NRLC’s state affiliate, held a press conference in the lower rotunda of the state Capitol to express their disappointment in the governor and to call for a special legislative session.
It was during a special legislative session in Texas that pro-lifers were able to pass their historic HB 2 which included that state’s Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Pro-abortionists went after other parts of the omnibus bill, but not the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
“We believe that the fetal pain issue is too important to put off until the legislature goes into session next year,” John Carey, legislative coordinator for West Virginians for Life (WVFL), said yesterday. “It seems there should be some way to overturn the governor’s veto, and we would like the legislature to find that way.”
Last week Tomblin vetoed HB 4588. One of the grounds he did so was his assertion “that this bill is unconstitutional.”
Carey observed that in so doing, “The governor stepped out of his role as a lawmaker last Friday evening and decided to become a judge.”
Carey explained that Gov. Tomblin “claimed the bill was unconstitutional—a determination like that is usually left to the courts.” Tomblin failed to note both that ten other states have passed similar laws, Carey said, and that none have been found unconstitutional.
Jennifer Popik, JD, is legislative counsel for the National Right to Life Committee’s Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics.
“Let’s be clear — this is a very developed child,” she said at the press conference. “This is a child the medical community sees as a second patient, and this is a child who can feel pain.”
Popik added, “There is a very strong case that this law, if heard by the Supreme Court, would be found by five Supreme Court justices to be constitutional.”
It was pointed out by other speakers that in his veto message, Tomblin criticized the bill for components that were no longer in it.
As NRL News Today reported, the timeframe for passage of HB 4588 was very tight. It had to pass the West Virginia House and make it over to the Senate before time ran out. 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 an even larger margin (83-15) than it had initially.
It is very much worth noting that both houses of the West Virginia legislature are controlled by Democrats and that Tomblin is also a Democrat.
Tomblin had three options. Sign HB 4588, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature. He chose to veto the bill.
Carey concluded his remarks with an important reminder:
“In this legislative session, our compassionate legislators passed legislation designed to protect children from bodily harm due to child neglect and abuse. It was only appropriate that they also passed the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which recognizes the need for such protection beginning at 20 weeks in the womb.
“The Governor’s veto has demonstrated a lack of compassion for these innocent children suffering horrific pain during late-term abortions.”