W.Va. gov signs law barring abortion because of disability

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Republican Gov. Jim Justice has signed a new law barring parents from seeking abortion care because they believe their child will be born with a disability.

Justice posted about his signature of the “Unborn Child with a Disability Protection and Education Act” on Twitter on Monday. He made the announcement about the new law in a tweet to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day.

He said the bill gives “deserved respect to our Down Syndrome community.”

The law prohibits people from seeking abortions because their child will have a disability, except in the case of a medical emergency or in cases where a fetus is “nonmedically viable.”

It was one of the more controversial bills passed during the 2022 legislative session. Its supporters said it would help protect people with disabilities. Others say the proposal was just another tool to further limit abortion in West Virginia, which is currently barred after 20 weeks.

During a 90-minute debate on the bill during the last day of the legislative session on March 12, Democratic Del. Evan Hansen said the bill would do nothing of substance to help people with disabilities and their families.

“This is an attempt to use people with disabilities as props for an anti-abortion agenda, something that the disability community has not asked for, as far as I know — and that’s just wrong,” Hansen said. “It creates government overreach into personal family medical decisions.”

A physician who violates the law could see their license to practice medicine suspended or revoked.

The bill also requires physicians to submit a report — with patients’ names omitted — to the state for each abortion they perform and whether “the presence or presumed presence of any disability in the unborn human being had been detected.”

The reports would include the date of the abortion and the method used, as well as confirming the doctor asked the patient if they chose to have an abortion because the baby might have a disability. These reports must be submitted within 15 days of each abortion.