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WV House wants further work on abortion bill


The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Judiciary Committee of the West Virginia House of Delegates has sent an abortion bill to a subcommittee for more work before recommending it to the full House for passage.

House Bill 2002 would further restrict existing state law, which requires parental notification for unemancipated minors seeking an abortion. Current law allows either a doctor or a judge to waive the notification requirement if they believe telling a parent or guardian about the abortion is not in the minor’s best interest — if, for example, the pregnancy is the result of sexual abuse by the parent or another relative.

The original version of the bill would have removed the doctor’s ability to decide not to inform parents of an intended abortion and would have placed a fine of up to $1,000 and a sentence of up to 30 days in jail on doctors who performed an abortion without telling parents.

A committee substitute for the original bill worked out in the House Health Committee removed the criminal penalties for doctors, replacing them with possible disciplinary action by state medical boards.

Under the proposed change to the law, a minor who did not want her parents to know about an abortion would have to petition a judge to waive the notification requirement. House Bill 2002 would also allow a doctor to petition the court on a minor’s behalf, but the doctor would not be allowed to waive the requirement alone.

More than 40 people signed up to speak at a public hearing on the legislation on Monday morning. The vast majority were against changing the law.

“We didn’t all grow up like ‘The Brady Bunch,’” testified one woman, who said she was the victim of sexual abuse by her brother. She said her mother, who was mentally ill, would not have believed her if she had said her brother made her pregnant, but said her doctor would have.

Members of the judiciary committee debated the bill for more than an hour Monday afternoon, but still had questions about the bill.

Judiciary chairman Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer, appointed a subcommittee to do further research and further tweak the bill.

Shott said he hoped the subcommittee could have a version of the bill ready to send on to the full House within a day or so.

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