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Group’s radio ads urge Manchin to support anti-abortion bill

A national group is calling on Sen. Joe Manchin to become the first Democratic sponsor of a federal anti-abortion bill.

The Susan B. Anthony List, a group that works to elect candidates who fight against abortion, is spending $20,000 to urge Manchin to sponsor the federal bill known as the Pain Capable Unborn Child Act. That bill already passed the House of Representatives last summer and boasts 184 House cosponsors, including Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and more than 40 in the Senate.

The ad campaign begins just days after Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed a state-level abortion bill, known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. That bill passed both the House and Senate overwhelmingly, but Tomblin questioned the constitutionality of banning abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.

“Democrats once stood up for the weakest and must vulnerable in our society -- including the unborn,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “Senator Manchin has a distinct opportunity to reclaim that pro-life heritage after Governor Tomblin’s shameful failure to stand for principle, We urge Sen. Joe Manchin to embrace his pro-life position and become the first Democratic senator to cosponsor this popular, modest federal legislation to protect unborn children after 20 weeks.”

The radio ads ask constituents to call Manchin’s office and urge him to sponsor the bill. Mallory Quigley, communications director with the SBA, said the group is concentrating solely on Manchin right now.

“He is pro-life and we believe the federal version should be passed with bipartisan support,” she said.

Pro-life groups and supporters met yesterday for a news conference ahead of an evening prayer vigil and to call on the Legislature to reconvene for a special session to reconsider action on House Bill 4588. John Carey, legislative coordinator for West Virginians for Life, said the governor should have signed the bill and let the court system deal with the constitutionality question.

“There is a reason we call our elected officials ‘lawmakers,’” Carey said. “They’re the ones who make the laws. The governor stepped out of his role as lawmaker last Friday evening and became a judge. He stands alone in doing this.”

Allen Witt, president of the West Virginia Family Policy Council, said his organization will no longer consider Tomblin pro-life. But Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, said she remembers visiting then-Senator Tomblin as a student lobbyist on behalf of pro-life bills. But her opinion of him has changed.

“Gov. Tomblin’s veto of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was a cowardly and outrageous act, which will allow hideous late-term abortions to continue in my home state of West Virginia,” she said. “By vetoing this bill, the governor has placed himself in the minority, aligning his abortion views with those who believe that abortion should be legal in all nine months of pregnancy, for any reason. The majority of Americans and West Virginians stand against this human rights abuse of dismembering and killing babies who are capable of feeling extreme pain.”

Because the bill was vetoed, abortions in West Virginia can be performed until birth, although opponents of the bill say late-term abortions are rare.

Legislators and state officials are working to figure out if Legislature can reconvene to reconsider action from a previous session. According to the state constitution, three-fifths of the members of each chamber of the Legislature would need to write to the governor to petition a special session. If that happens, the governor would have to call a session, but it’s not entirely clear if lawmakers would have to develop a new bill or rework the current bill to the governor’s liking.

Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-7939 or Follow her at

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