The West Virginia House of Representatives [official website] on Saturday approved a bill [HB 4588] to prohibit abortions later than 20 weeks after conception. The House passed the bill [AP report] by a vote of 85-15 with two delegates not participating. The bill passed the West Virginia Senate a few days earlier, and the legislation now awaits approval from Governor Earl Ray Tomblin [official website] before it becomes law. West Virginia is the first Democrat-controlled state legislature [WP report] to pass a 20-week ban on abortion, joining a Republican-backed effort that has enacted similar abortion laws in 10 states across the US.
The debate over 20-week abortion bans is the latest development in the ongoing reproductive rights controversy [JURIST backgrounder] in the US. A number of states have proposed laws to make abortions illegal after 20-weeks and the US government has grappled with the constitutionality of a federal law banning abortion procedures 20 weeks after conception. In February the Mississippi House approved [JURIST report] a 20-week abortion ban law. In January the US Supreme Court declined [JURIST report] to rule on Arizona's attempt to revive its 20-week ban on abortions after having been stuck down [JURIST report] on constitutional grounds by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last May. The US House of Representatives voted [JURIST report] in favor of a federal law banning 20-week abortions in June 2013 but the bill failed [Washington Post report] to gain widespread support in the Democratic-controlled US Senate because many representatives believe such a law would violate women's rights.