CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A state senator from the Eastern Panhandle is not impressed with the recently concluded special session.
16th District Senator Hannah Geffert (R – Berkeley) released a statement over the weekend after lawmakers went home with no action on either tax cuts or abortion.
In her statement, Geffert said, “the Governor and the Republican majorities displayed how little they care about anything but taxes, and especially how little they care about women’s health care.”
Geffert went on to say, “The special session was called to discuss taxes. But on Monday, about one-half hour after the special session started, the Governor announced that he wanted a bill about abortion, too.”
Geffert contended the judiciary committee only saw the bill five minutes before it was to consider it.
The senator calls the public hearing held Wednesday morning in the House “farce.”
” Each speaker was allowed only 45 seconds to address the complex issues of abortion, and the complex circumstances under which an abortion might be necessary. The 45 second limit was strictly enforced by cutting of the microphone. Many Delegates appeared totally uninterested in what was said, and instead spent the time focused on their cell phones,” Geffert alleged.
On the senate side, Geffert says the Republican leadership did not refer the bill to any committee nor conduct a public hearing.
“Aside from whether an abortion will ever be lawful in West Virginia, there are many serious issues for which testimony from doctors, counselors and other professionals would have been useful,” Senator Geffert said in her statement. “For example, a majority of Republican members of the Legislature voted to impose criminal penalties on any doctor who performs an abortion. The penalty is 3 to 10 years in prison. What affect will that have on recruiting OBGYN doctors to West Virginia? There is already a shortage of those doctors in many counties of West Virginia.”
“Every doctor in the Senate opposed the criminalization provision, exactly because it would result in even less health care for women,” Geffert said.
” While the Senate voted against the criminal penalties by an 18-13 margin (all 13 who voted to keep the penalty were Republicans), the House has so far refused to accept that change. An amendment in the House by Democratic Delegates Pushkin and Fleishauer to delete the criminal penalties had previously been defeated by a vote of 67 to 21,” Gefferts statement continued.
She said questions persist about the definition of a “medical emergency” that would permit an abortion. “Will a doctor have to consult a lawyer, or a county prosecutor, before giving medical advice to a woman in crisis?”
Geffert also criticized the bill’s definition of a medical emergency, which she says excludes consideration of a woman’s mental health.
“These are all complex and serious issues about women’s health care which deserve thoughtful consideration based upon as much information as can be reasonably gathered,” Geffert said. “Instead, it appears that the Legislature is determined to push through a bill, information be damned. That is wrong.”