Justice adds abortion law issue to today's special session agenda

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Jul. 25—Gov. Jim Justice has added the state abortion law issue to his scheduled special session of legislators today.

Justice issued a proclamation today adding the controversial item, saying it is needed "to clarify and modernize the abortion-related laws currently existing as part of the West Virginia Code, to ensure a coherent, comprehensive framework governing abortions and attendant family services and support to expecting mothers to provide the citizens of this State more certainty in the application of such laws."

"From the moment the Supreme Court announced their decision in Dobbs, I said that I would not hesitate to call a special session once I heard from our Legislative leaders that they had done their due diligence and were ready to act," Justice said in the announcement. "As I have said many times, I very proudly stand for life and I believe that every human life is a miracle worth protecting."

The special session was set to commence at noon today.

Justice's decision comes on the heels of Attorney General Patrick Morrisey today formally filing a notice of appeal of a preliminary injunction on a state abortion law as well as opening appellate brief and a motion for expedited proceedings on the appeal to the state Supreme Court of Appeals.

The Attorney General is asking the Supreme Court to overturn the injunction.

"This starts the process of correcting this erroneous ruling by a Kanawha County Circuit Court judge that did nothing but jeopardize the innocent lives of unborn babies," Morrisey said. "I have a duty to defend the laws of the state, and this law currently on the books calls for the protection of innocent lives. As a strong pro-life advocate, I take that very seriously."

Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Tera Salango ruled from the bench Monday, July 18, granting preliminary injunction on the more than 100-year-old West Virginia abortion law that basically bans all abortions and includes felony penalties for providers as well possibly for mothers.

Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and left abortion rights decisions to the states, Morrisey wrote a legal opinion saying the 1800s law is now enforceable, in essence stopping abortions in the state and leading to the Kanawha County lawsuit.

Justice had said for weeks the 1800s laws are "archaic" and must be clarified, but was waiting to call a special session to make sure legislators had time to do their legal homework and were ready to present those clarifications.

It is not yet known if any of those clarifications will impact the injunction or the appeal.

Justice initially had called today's special session to only consider his proposal to reduce West Virginia's personal income tax by an aggregate of 10 percent.

The governor said his proposal puts $254 million back in the pockets of West Virginians, and provides "immediate relief to combat rampant inflation."

The proposal puts West Virginia on a pathway to eventually eliminate the Personal Income Tax entirely, which would drive "phenomenal growth to our state for generations to come," he said.

However, some opposition has emerged as the Senate has prioritized ending the equipment and inventory taxes as well as the vehicle personal property taxes and reimbursing counties for money lost if the taxes end.

An amendment to the state's Constitution is on the ballot in November asking voters to give the authority to legislators to end those local taxes.

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com