CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice scoffed Monday at a suggestion by Democratic lawmakers to let voters decide whether abortion should continue to be allowed in the state.
The Republican governor said the state’s abortion law falls under the scrutiny of the Legislature and the attorney general.
During a legislative special session initiated by Justice last month, majority Republicans failed to pass legislation criminalizing abortion.
On Friday, top Democrats asked Justice and leading GOP lawmakers to bring the Legislature back to consider a resolution to allow voters to consider a constitutional amendment for “reproductive freedom.”
Justice wanted no part of that.
“Unfortunately, this place is surrounded with constant grandstanding,” the governor said at a news conference. “I think that’s what the Democrats are doing.”
Abortion had been banned after 20 weeks of pregnancy in West Virginia until the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion. After that ruling, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said abortion was banned completely in the state because of an 1800s–era law that had been unenforceable while abortion was federally protected.
But a Charleston judge barred the state from enforcing the ban, ruling it had been superseded by a slew of conflicting modern laws, including the 20–week ban. Morrisey has appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court, which is expected to take up the case this fall.
“Coming down from the U.S. Supreme Court, this is the responsibility of our Legislature and our attorney general,”Justice said. “And absolutely I’ve said over and over and over, I don’t want to impose anything, any ideas or anything.”
“Now, if they bring me something that I cannot sign, I won’t sign it. But actually, I don’t think that’ll happen. I think our Legislature is abound with good people and they should get through this and bring me something that I will absolutely welcome and sign. And I think that’s exactly what will happen.”
In 2018, West Virginia voters approved a constitutional amendment saying that nothing in the state Constitution “secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.”