West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has vetoed a 20-week abortion ban, which was the first such prohibition to make it through a Democratically-controlled legislature.
“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,” Tomblin, a Democrat, said Friday. “However, I have vetoed [the bill] because I am advised, by not only attorneys from the legislature, but through my own legal team that this bill is unconstitutional.”
The legislation passed the Democratic-controlled state senate and Democratic-controlled state house earlier in the month.
Tomblin, who is said to be pro-life, raised questions about its legality shortly after passage. He said Friday that his team believes the bill is unconstitutional.
“The bill is also problematic because it unduly restricts the physician-patient relationship. All patients, particularly expectant mothers, require the best, most unfettered medical judgment and advice from their physicians regarding treatment options,” he said. “The medical community has made it clear to me that the criminal penalties this bill imposes will impede that advice, and those options, to the detriment of the health and safety of expectant mothers.”
Pro-life groups slammed the governor for his decision and statement over the weekend.
“This high profile hypocrisy is producing justified outrage in West Virginia and across the nation. Shame on Governor Tomblin for turning his back on unborn children and women by vetoing a compassionate, common sense limit passed with overwhelming bipartisan support,” Susan B Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser said.
Students for Life America president Kristan Hawkins also smelled a rat.
“This bill has passed in 10 other states and even the U.S. House of Representatives – none of which considered the bill to be unconstitutional, as the Governor claimed,” she said. “I believe this was the plan of the Democratic Leadership in West Virginia all along, to allow the bill to pass so their vulnerable Democrat members could vote pro-life before an important election and then have lame-duck Governor veto the bill. That’s not leadership.”
The pro-choice West Virginia Free, on the other hand, cheered Tomblin’s veto.
“HB 4588 would have taken away a woman’s ability to make extremely personal and often heartbreaking reproductive health care decision,” Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of West Virginia Free said in a statement. “We believe that these decisions should be made by a woman in consultation with her physician, not by legislators. The Governor made the right choice in vetoing this bill and we are heartened by his decision to place his trust in the women of West Virginia and the medical community.”