CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A motion to discharge a bill that would ban abortions after the 20th week of gestation failed earlier this week on a 48-48 vote -- but that may not be the final word on the legislation in the House of Delegates.
The bill (HB2364) was a primary topic of a three-hour long and reportedly heated caucus of House Democrats Wednesday afternoon, with some delegates demanding the House Health and Human Resources Committee take up the legislation.
Committee Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, said Thursday he has not decided whether he will place the bill on the committee's agenda.
"I have had requests from several Democrats to run that bill," Perdue said. "I'm taking that under consideration."
Several states have passed similar laws, but an abortion ban after 20 weeks in Arizona was struck down by a federal appeals court last year, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused in January to hear the state's appeal.
The procedural vote on Tuesday split mostly along party lines. Two Democrats, Delegates Jeff Eldridge, D-Lincoln, and Rick Moye, D-Raleigh, voted with 46 Republicans to discharge the bill from committee and bring it to the House floor.
The anti-abortion group West Virginians for Life chided House Democrats for "failing to protect unborn babies."
The group quoted John Carey, legislative coordinator for WVFL, saying, "It is a shame that not one other Democrat was willing to vote to save the lives of babies, who continue to suffer here in West Virginia."
The bill would make it a felony, punishable by not less than one year in prison, to perform abortions on fetuses after 20 weeks' gestation. It is called "The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," with proponents contending that fetuses can feel pain by 20 weeks, a claim that many scientists doubt.
During the Wednesday afternoon floor session, delegates made a show of support for the bill by asking to be added as co-sponsors: Five were added, including four Democrats, before it reached the maximum 11 co-sponsors allowed for a bill.