CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Monday signed a proposal to penalize physicians who don’t provide medical care to a child born after an abortion, a largely symbolic measure due to existing laws that protect newborns.
The measure easily passed both the GOP-held Senate and House of Delegates with supporters admitting that it’s more about sending a political message than solving an ongoing problem. State law forbids abortions after 20 weeks and many Democrats have pointed out that murder is already a crime in West Virginia.
“A child born alive who would somehow be killed, that would be murder. It would clearly be murder, there’s nobody doing that and if they do do it, they’re in jail,” Harrison County Sen. Mike Romano said when the Senate passed the bill last month.
The bill subjects medical professionals to discipline from their licensing board if they do not care for a child born after an abortion procedure.
Elizabeth Nash, state policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, has said such proposals come up around election seasons to “gin up the base in some way.”
North Carolina’s Democratic governor vetoed a similar bill last year because he said it was unnecessary.
Justice, a Republican, held a ceremonial bill signing for the measure at the state Capitol. He said it was “unbelievable, to tell you the truth, that we have to do such a thing.”
“So today we’re going to put a stake in the sand that says for us, for us at least we stand for life and we stand for the right stuff,” said Justice.