West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice — who was elected as a Democrat but later switched to the Republican Party — signed a bill into law Monday that protects babies who are born following attempted abortion procedures.
The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which penalizes physicians who don't provide the newborn baby medical care, moved through the state's House and Senate with near unanimous support before reaching the governor's desk.
"This is an absolute no-brainer as far as I'm concerned," Gov. Justice said. "I've said for a long time, even back before I took office as governor, that I would support measures like this because every human life — born or unborn — is precious and truly a gift from God."
What's the background?
West Virginia's newly signed law is nearly identical to the federal "born-alive" bill that was blocked by 41 Democratic senators in a vote on Capitol Hill last week.
The legislation, both in West Virginia and in D.C., came in response to comments by Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam last year that indicated an openness to abortions after birth, or infanticide.
"If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen," Northam said while discussing a controversial state-level abortion bill in a radio interview last year. "The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that's what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother."
Pro-life lawmakers took Northam's comments and the surrounding discussion as a sign that the Democratic Party had moved radically to the left on the abortion issue, and that further protections needed to be made.
'It's just common sense'
"If I had my way, I would stand up here and say I stand for life in all cases, all the time," Gov. Justice said in a ceremonial bill signing at the state Capitol. "It's unbelievable that we even have to go through this process for something that seems like it's just common sense. But, at the same time, we should be really proud that we're defending the lives of our most vulnerable."
"So today we're going to put a stake in the sand that says for us, for us at least, we stand for life and we stand for the right stuff," he added.