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West Virginia Hearing on Tax-Funded Abortion Ban Yields No Vote, Legal Threat

Charleston, WV (LifeNews.com)—At a hearing on a bill that would ban direct taxpayer funding of abortions in West Virginia ended with no vote from the panel and a legal threat from a pro-abortion group. The hearing came after hundreds of pro-life advocates rallied at the state capitol to protest using their money to pay for abortions.

The pro-life community has been working for years to stop the practice, which most state residents find abhorrent.

A hearing on Monday, opponents of the bill complained women would not be able to use their own Medicaid benefits, which are funded by state taxpayers, to pay for abortions.

Abortion advocates claimed the bill, HB 3159, would discriminate against poor women who are not as able to fund their own abortions as women of means.

Frank Crabtree, director of the ACLU of West Virginia, also threatened to sue the state if it adopted the bill, saying, “I can almost guarantee [litigation] would ensue.”

The House Finance Committee did not vote on the measure, but the panel’s chairman, Keith White, is a co-sponsor of the bill.

A similar measure failed in the legislature last year because the chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the House of Delegates stopped it from moving forward. This year’s bill won’t go through that panel and pro-life advocates say it has a better chance of getting to the governor as a result.

This year’s bill is sponsored by four Democrats and one Republican.

Though the state capitol was filled with pro-life advocates last week, pro-life advocates complained that the hearing on the bill didn’t take place until Monday. Yesterday, abortion advocates had their rally day and brought in supporters from across the state.

Brian Louk, the director of West Virginians for Life, told LifeNews.com last week that the bill is needed.

“Under the bill, the state would only pay for abortions that qualify for funding under the federal Medicaid program. The federal Medicaid program only pays for abortions in instances when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest and when the mother’s life is in danger,” he explained.

Although his group would love to see even more abortions de-funded, the bill would stop 96 percent of taxpayer funded abortions in West Virginia.

“Currently, the state of West Virginia pays for Medicaid abortions for any reason, even as a method of birth control. West Virginia is one of only 17 states that pay for abortion on demand,” Louk said.

“Most West Virginians are pro-life and don’t like being forced to pay for abortion on demand,” he added.

According to 2006 figures from the state health department, West Virginia spent $400,000 to pay for 798 abortions and most of them were likely elective abortions outside of the hard cases such as rape, incest or protecting a woman’s life or medical health.

Since 1993, the state of West Virginia has spent millions of tax dollars to pay for an estimated 16,000 abortions.

The pro-life group tried to ban taxpayer funding of abortions years ago and got a bill through the state legislature. However, the state Supreme Court ruled 3-2 in 1993, in what is known as the “Panepinto Decision,” that the law is unconstitutional.

The group has been waiting for the makeup of the state’s high court to change so it could try again