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West Virginia Becomes the Eleventh State to Protect Pain-capable Children as Legislature Overrides Governor Tomblin’s Veto.

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WASHINGTON – In a 27-5 vote, the West Virginia state Senate today joined with the state House of Delegates in voting to override Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s veto of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 2568), legislation that protects unborn children from abortion at the point that they are able to feel pain. Tomblin’s veto came after the state House of Delegates and the state Senate overwhelmingly approved the bill in February. The legislature’s successful override of Gov. Tomblin’s veto means that the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act will go into effect in 90 days.

Despite having passed the legislature last session, Governor Tomblin’s first veto of this legislation came after the session ended, preventing an override vote.

“Medical science provides substantial compelling evidence that unborn children flinch away from painful stimuli, that their stress hormones increase when they are subjected to anything painful, and that they require anesthesia for fetal surgery,” said Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., director of state legislation for the National Right to Life Committee. “States have a compelling interest in protecting the lives of unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion. West Virginia becomes the eleventh state to recognize this obligation by enacting the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.”

The legislation is based on a National Right to Life model bill that is currently in effect in eight states across the country: Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Texas.

The West Virginia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act will protect unborn children from 20 weeks fetal age, based on legislative findings that there is compelling evidence that an unborn child by that point (if not earlier) is capable of experiencing excruciating pain during the process of dismemberment or other abortion procedures.

“The overwhelming override of the governor’s veto reflects the will of pro-life West Virginians who worked so hard to elect legislators who will stand for life,” said Karen Cross, political liaison for West Virginians for Life. “We are thankful that the legislature took up the mantle of protecting the most innocent and defenseless when we were failed by Governor Tomblin. Today, West Virginia is a safer place for pain-capable unborn children and a better place for all those who value human life.”

“We commend the members of the legislature who supported this bill for their courage and compassion by adding their voices in favor of protecting pain-capable unborn children who are unable to speak for themselves,” added Balch. “We condemn Governor Tomblin for his cowardice and indifference toward the innocent, unborn child who is capable of great suffering from the violence of abortion.”

Founded in 1968, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the federation of 50 state right-to-life affiliates and more than 3,000 local chapters, is the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots pro-life organization. Recognized as the flagship of the pro-life movement, NRLC works through legislation and education to protect innocent human life from abortion, infanticide, assisted suicide and euthanasia.

In a landmark move, West Virginia has become the eleventh state to enact legislation protecting pain-capable unborn children. This legislative milestone was achieved after the West Virginia Legislature successfully overrode Governor Tomblin’s veto of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This article explores the implications of this decision, the rationale behind the legislation, and the broader impact on abortion laws across the United States.

Overview of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act prohibits abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, based on the premise that a fetus can feel pain at this stage of development. The law includes exceptions only in cases where the mother’s life is at risk or where the pregnancy poses a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment to a major bodily function.

Legislative Override

Despite Governor Tomblin’s veto, citing concerns over the constitutionality and potential legal challenges of the bill, the West Virginia Legislature moved decisively to override his decision. This required a two-thirds majority vote in both the state House of Delegates and the state Senate, reflecting strong legislative support for the measure.

Support and Opposition

Supporters of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act argue that it is a necessary step to protect the rights and dignity of unborn children. They assert that scientific evidence suggests fetuses can experience pain at 20 weeks, making later-term abortions inhumane. Proponents also believe that the law aligns with public sentiment favoring more restrictive abortion regulations as pregnancy progresses.

Conversely, opponents, including Governor Tomblin, raise concerns about the act’s constitutionality, referencing the precedent set by Roe v. Wade, which protects a woman’s right to choose an abortion prior to fetal viability, generally considered to be around 24 weeks. Critics argue that the law imposes undue burdens on women seeking abortions and could lead to unsafe, unregulated procedures. They also highlight the potential for legal battles that could arise, challenging the state’s resources and judicial system.

Broader Implications

West Virginia’s enactment of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act contributes to a growing trend of states implementing more restrictive abortion laws. As the eleventh state to pass such legislation, West Virginia joins a coalition of states pushing the boundaries of current federal abortion protections. These laws are part of a broader strategy by pro-life advocates to challenge and potentially overturn Roe v. Wade by bringing cases before the Supreme Court.

Looking Ahead

The passage of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in West Virginia marks a significant development in the national abortion debate. As more states consider similar legislation, the legal landscape surrounding abortion rights continues to evolve. The ongoing battle between pro-life and pro-choice advocates is likely to intensify, with future court rulings playing a critical role in shaping the accessibility and regulation of abortion services in the United States.


West Virginia’s decision to protect pain-capable unborn children through legislative action, despite the governor’s veto, underscores the persistent and contentious nature of the abortion debate in America. This development highlights the powerful influence of state legislatures in shaping reproductive policy and the potential for significant shifts in legal precedents governing abortion rights. As the nation watches closely, the future of reproductive health and rights hangs in the balance, subject to the complex interplay of legislative actions, judicial interpretations, and public opinion.


Daniel Miller is responsible for nearly all of National Right to Life News' political writing.

With the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Daniel Miller developed a deep obsession with U.S. politics that has never let go of the political scientist. Whether it's the election of Joe Biden, the midterm elections in Congress, the abortion rights debate in the Supreme Court or the mudslinging in the primaries - Daniel Miller is happy to stay up late for you.

Daniel was born and raised in New York. After living in China, working for a news agency and another stint at a major news network, he now lives in Arizona with his two daughters.

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