West Virginia Legislature Approves Unborn Victims Bill, Gov. Will Veto
by Paul Nowak
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
March 15, 2004
Charleston, WV (LifeNews.com) — The West Virginia House of Delegates overwhelmingly passed an Unborn Victims bill Saturday, though Governor Bob Wise has promised to veto the legislation.
Also known as Christy and Ashley’s bill, SB 566 passed by a vote of 79-18 Friday night. However, it was discovered that amendments clarifying the exemptions for medical and scientific personnel made by the Senate had not been included in the version sent to the House. Another vote was taken on the correct bill, which passed 83-16.
On Sunday Governor Wise said he would read the bill and then veto it, as “legislators apparently didn’t know what they were voting on,” according to the Dominion-Post.
Earlier this month the state Senate voted unanimously to pass the Unborn Victims bill, which would recognize an unborn child as a separate but equal victim if that child is injured or killed as the result of a crime committed against the mother.
Melissa Adkins, Legislative Coordinator for West Virginians for Life, told LifeNews.com that the governor’s veto promise was a disappointment. Despite the overwhelming support in the legislature, the session ended Saturday night — unless Governor Wise vetoes the bill in the next few days, an override attempt will be impossible.
"Murder is the leading cause of death of pregnant women," said Adkins. "Studies
have shown that violence against women decreases in states that have similar legislation. West Virginia women and their children deserve Christy and Ashley’s Law."
Abortion advocates have been calling for enhanced penalties for causing injury or death to pregnant woman and her child, but fear the Unborn Victims legislation may be used to combat abortion.
"Harming or killing a pregnant woman is a heinous crime that can and should be severely punished. When a violent attack causes a woman to lose a wanted pregnancy, she suffers more than physical pain, and any punishment against her attacker must reflect that fact," said Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation in a recent press release. "We must be careful that any changes to our laws do not create other possible legal ramifications, such as endangering a woman’s constitutional right to choose."
However, those who have been hurt by lack of such a law disagree.
SB 566 was named after Christy and Ashley Alberts. Christy was shot when she was nearly 9 months pregnant, resulting in the death of both her and her unborn daughter, Ashley. During murder trial, the jury was never told about Ashley.
"The judge told me that Ashley only existed in my mind," said Stephanie Alberts, Christy’s mother and Ashley’s grandmother, who was devastated to learn that under West Virginia law, no one would ever be charged with the death of her granddaughter.
"The 34 – 0 vote [in the Senate] is not surprising because polling data reveals that 84% of Americans and 69% of people indicating they are pro-choice favor this type of legislation. Every grieving mother who has lost her child due to violence knows her baby is a victim," said Adkins. " West Virginia must protect those innocent and vulnerable babies who cannot defend themselves from criminals."
Not only was the Senate vote overwhelming, it came quickly. The bill was in the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, and in one day passed out of both the Committee and the full Senate.
According to the National Right to Life committee, there are 29 states with Unborn Victims laws, 16 of which protect an unborn child from the moment of conception. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a federal Unborn Victims of Violence law, and the Senate is expected to vote on it by next week.