West Virginia Senate passes 'born alive' abortion bill

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — After acknowledging that murder is already a crime, the West Virginia Senate on Monday passed a bill to penalize physicians who don't provide medical care to a baby born after an abortion attempt.

Senators unanimously approved the measure following lone testimony from a Democrat who said lawmakers have wasted time angling for political points on a bill that has no impact instead of working on the state's more serious problems.

“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,” said Harrison County Sen. Mike Romano, adding that the bill “isn't going to change anything.”

The bill, dubbed the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, subjects medical professionals to discipline from their licensing board if they do not care for a child born after an abortion procedure.

In a previous debate, some Republicans in the House of Delegates conceded that the bill is more about sending a political message than solving an ongoing problem, especially since existing laws already protect newborns and that the state bans abortions after 20 weeks. One Independent delegate has also noted that laws about providing medical care could change.

The House must approve minor amendments to the bill before it goes to the office of Gov. Jim Justice, who said he will sign the measure.

"I will proudly sign this bill into law when it comes to my desk because every human life — born and unborn — is precious and a gift from God. As long as I am Governor, I will always defend the right to life for every unborn child," Justice wrote on Twitter.

Elizabeth Nash, state policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, has said such proposals are often employed around election seasons to “gin up the base in some way.”

A similar measure was vetoed last year by North Carolina's Democratic governor, who said the proposal was unnecessary and that newborn babies are already protected by existing laws.

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