Abortion ban passes West Virginia senate, heads back to house

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Activists protest outside the senate chambers in the Indiana Statehouse during a special session debating on banning abortion in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S. July 25, 2022. REUTERS/Cheney Orr

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July 29 (Reuters) - The Republican-controlled West Virginia senate on Friday passed a bill that would be the first to restrict abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled there is no constitutional right to the procedure.

But instead of now going to the governor who has indicated he would sign it, the bill must return to the house, where it passed earlier this week, to reconcile a Senate amendment stripping the possibility of prison time for doctors who perform abortions outside narrow exemptions.

Several senators expressed concern about the state's ability to attract doctors if they could be hit with prison time for medical decisions they might make. Doctors could still have their licenses to practice revoked if found to violate the ban.

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Thirteen other Republican-controlled states previously passed so-called trigger laws intending to enact bans of most abortions after the June 24 decision by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.

West Virginia still had a law on its books from the 1800s that banned abortions except where a pregnant person's life was at risk, but a state judge earlier this month blocked officials from enforcing it. read more

In response, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice ordered lawmakers back from recess for an emergency session.

Abortions are legal at West Virginia's lone abortion clinic up to 20 weeks post-fertilization. The bill would ban abortions except in the case of a serious threat to the life of a pregnant woman or of a fetus that is not medically viable.

It also makes exceptions for rape or incest up to eight weeks of pregnancy for an adult and up to 14 weeks for a minor if the victim can show they have reported the assault to law enforcement.

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Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Additional reporting by Nate Raymond and Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Lincoln Feast.

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