Abortion Is Now Outlawed In West Virginia With Few Exceptions

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced Friday that he’s signed a highly restrictive abortion ban into law and that it’s effective immediately.

“I’ve done exactly what I said I would do. I’ve signed. It’s done. It is absolutely done,” Justice said of the legislation state lawmakers sent him earlier this week.

The sweeping ban completely outlaws abortion, with exceptions for rape and incest victims within a limited window of time ― up to eight weeks for adults and up to 14 weeks for children ― and in cases of medical emergencies. Justice touted these provisions Friday as “reasonable and logical exceptions.”

Abortion rights supporters demonstrate outside the state Senate chamber at the West Virginia Capitol on Tuesday.

But even for those patients, the new law puts several barriers in place. Rape and incest victims or their doctors must report their assaults to law enforcement 48 hours before their procedures. Additionally, the abortion must be performed by a physician at a hospital ― something doctors say is medically unnecessary and will limit access even further.

“It is going to shut down that abortion clinic, of that, I feel certain,” state Sen. Robert Karnes (R), one of the bill’s supporters, said in reference to West Virginia’s sole remaining abortion clinic during the state Senate’s vote Tuesday.

Reproductive rights activists slammed Justice for the way he rationalized passing the bill.

“Is it ‘reasonable’ to re-traumatize survivors of sexual assault who need an abortion by forcing them to report to law enforcement and show their doctor a police report before they can get the care they need?” Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson tweeted at Justice on Friday. “Is it ‘logical’ to make patients wait until they’re on the brink of death to get a life-saving abortion?”

The legislation West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) signed will likely shut down the state's only remaining abortion clinic.
The legislation West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) signed will likely shut down the state’s only remaining abortion clinic.

The criminal penalties outlined in the bill will go into effect in 90 days. Doctors who perform abortions banned under the law can face up to a decade in prison.

West Virginia already had strict abortion policies in place before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, allowing states to make their own laws blocking the procedure.

Abortion patients in West Virginia were already required to undergo state-directed counseling discouraging them from terminating their pregnancies and then forced to wait another 24 hours before getting treatment. Patients are also banned from using telemedicine to receive abortion care, and parents of minors seeking abortions must be notified before the minor can get the procedure.