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House votes to override abortion bill veto

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Legislature on Wednesday moved to override a governor’s veto of a controversial anti-abortion bill.

The House voted Wednesday morning to override Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s veto of House Bill 2568, also known as The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. The bill prohibits abortions after 20 weeks, the point where proponents of the bill say a fetus can feel pain.

Tomblin vetoed the bill Tuesday citing concerns over the constitutionality of the bill. Tomblin vetoed a similar bill last year.

This time, however, Republicans are in control over both the House and the Senate for the first time in more than 80 years. The House voted 77-16 with seven members absent and not voting to override the veto.

The Senate was expected to vote on the override Wednesday evening. An override requires a simple majority in both houses for a regular bill, or a two-thirds majority in both houses for a funding bill.

The House vote came with little discussion and no voiced opposition.

House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, issued a statement following the vote.

“I am very pleased that the House has decided that this piece of legislation is important enough to take the historic step of overriding the governor’s veto and am pleased with the overwhelming number of members that supported the override,” he said. “I believe that the Pain-Capable Unborn Protection Act is constitutional and will withstand any constitutional challenge.”

Armstead said he fully expected the Senate to vote to override as well.

Chris Stadelman, spokesman for the governor’s office, said Tomblin would not comment on the veto override votes.

“He believes his statements on the bill still stand,” Stadelman said.

In a letter to Armstead Tuesday, Tomblin pointed to several U.S. Supreme Court cases where similar bills had been ruled unconstitutional.

State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, however, has spoken in favor of the bill and promised to defend it in court if needed.

House bill sponsors and pro-life advocates announced Wednesday evening they would urge the Senate to move quickly to override the governor’s veto.

According to the Legislative Office of Reference and Information, the last override of a governor’s veto occurred in 1987 under the administration of Governor Arch A. Moore Jr. The House of Delegates voted 68-19 and the Senate voted 25-9 to get two-thirds majority needed to override a veto on the fiscal 1988 state spending plan.

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