Monday, March 06, 2006

House Showdown Over Parental Notification for Minors' Abortions Tomorrow

Tomorrow, the House of Delegates will vote on discharging SB 519, closing a loophole in the state's law requiring parental notification before a minor has an abortion, from the House Judiciary Committee. The Beckley Register-Herald reports that in anticipation of this vote, West Virginians for Life has announced that any vote against discharge will forfeit a delegate's endorsement in this year's elections.

After a string of recent legislative successes, West Virginians for Life, the state's largest nonpartisan, grassroots, pro-life organization, has been stonewalled in the House of Delegates on closing the loophole in the parental notification law. The loophole in question allows a doctor other than the abortionist to issue a "physician waiver" of the parental notification requirement upon the doctor's judgment the minor can make the decision for herself, with no oversight or review. SB 519 proposes to follow the model of almost every other state with a parental involvement law and require a court to conduct a confidential hearing and rule on whether to issue the waiver.

House Democrats have apparently been unable to bring any abortion bills to a vote due to jockeying between the major factions of their caucus over party leadership following the retirement of Speaker Bob Kiss. While pro-abortion delegates are a minority even in that caucus, they are apparently trying to use the contest for their support to suppress action on pro-life bills this year.

SB 519 is the second bill the Senate has had to spring into action and pass after the House originally agreed to act first and then dropped the ball. Also on Wednesday, the Senate rewrote and passed SB 205, the sex offender bill, after its House counterpart, HB 4039, also ran aground in the lower body.

The Senate voted 29-5 on Wednesday to suspend the constitutional rule requiring the bill to be read on 3 separate days and then voted 32-2 to pass SB 519, after the House of Delegates balked and failed to pass HB 4411, the House version of the bill, after a prior agreement among legislative leaders to originate the bill in the House. Senators Dan Foster, D-Kanawha, Charles Lanham, R-Mason, Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, Bill Sharpe, D-Lewis, and John Yoder, R-Jefferson, voted against the rules suspension and Senators Foster and McCabe voted against passing the bill.