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West Virginia's Anti-Abortion Bill is Now in Effect

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This Tuesday, West Virginia joined eleven other states as its new 20-week abortion ban took effect. Originally vetoed by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin on the basis of the bill's proposed unconstitutionality, West Virginian legislators successfully overrode the veto. Reasoning behind the bill includes inconclusive and often disputed evidence that fetuses may feel pain as early as 20 weeks.

Specifically, the ban makes any abortion occurring 20 weeks after conception illegal. Therefore, medical professionals who perform termination procedures after the 20-week mark will be subject to consequences. Like many other anti-abortion bills, the ban may greatly compromise a women's right to proper healthcare.

While the bill includes strict and limited accommodations for women whose pregnancies may pose health risks, this ban disregards the fact that terminated pregnancies after 20 weeks are particularly rare, only occurring under extreme and unexpected pregnancy complications that harm the mother or result in an unviable fetus. Planned Parenthood of South Atlantic's Melissa Reed comments, "While a women should not have to justify her personal medical decisions, the reality is that abortion later in pregnancy is extremely rare, and often happens under heartbreaking situations," insinuating that banning abortions after that 20-week period is not preventing irresponsible terminations, but instead preventing women from getting through extremely difficult and dangerous situations as safely as possible.

What's most problematic about this new ban is what opposition cites as a crude overlook of the challenges women seeking abortion often face. The ban poses unrealistic and inconsiderate expectations on women, particularly those suffering from mental illness or who are pregnant as a result of rape or incest. Under the current policy, no exemptions are given to victims of rape or incest, and even women with psychological issues that may result in harm to self or to the fetus are not given an exception.

The ban, one of many state-wide anti-abortion laws imposed in the past few years, follows another national anti-abortion bill update that occurred earlier this month. A bill for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, and although it provides more exceptions for instances of rape, incest, and medical complications than the West Virginia ban does, opposition still runs strong. President Obama leads the opposition, claiming to veto the bill if it makes it to his office. Nonetheless, for women's rights activists, the current spike in anti-abortion legislation both state- and nationwide may been seen as a concerning barrier for women's equality in the United States.

What is your take on conditional anti-abortion laws? Are 20-week bans a necessary restriction, or do they compromise the health and constitutional rights of women in the United States? 


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