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W.Va. Senate president calls for abortion session

Charleston Gazette file photo  Sen. Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall
Charleston Gazette file photo
Sen. Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, is asking Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to call the Legislature into special session to pass a bill restricting late-term abortions to avoid having the Legislature call itself into session by petition.

“If we call ourselves into session, we’re in a general session for as long as we want, on as many topics as we want,” Kessler said. “To me, I think that’s ill-conceived.”

When the governor calls the Legislature into special session, he can limit the agenda to a specific issue or issues. Kessler said if the Legislature petitions the governor to call a special session, it is his understanding legislators would be free to introduce any bills they want on any matters.

Anti-abortion groups have indicated they are close to securing the signatures needed to require the governor to call a special session. Under the state Constitution, three-fifths of the members of each house, 60 delegates and 21 senators, must sign the petition letter in order to call themselves into session.

Kessler said he believes it is inevitable that the Legislature will pass a bill restricting late-term abortions, and said it is in the best interest of the Legislature and governor to resolve the issue sooner rather than later.

“It has the potential to be a very divisive and political issue that’s going to be played out between now and November,” Kessler said.

Tomblin spokesman Chris Stadelman said the governor is willing to work with the Legislature to pass an abortion bill that will be upheld as constitutional in the courts.

In March, Tomblin vetoed a bill passed by the Legislature to ban abortions of fetuses after 20 weeks’ gestation, on the advice of attorneys who said similar bans in other states had been overturned in court as being unconstitutional.

“The governor has said all along he would work with the Legislature to craft a bill that will meet constitutional muster,” Stadelman said. “If the Legislature suggests a bill that is constitutional, the governor will be happy to discuss that with them.”

Stadelman noted that courts have upheld abortion bans after 24 weeks’ gestation…

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