This is a developing story and may be updated.
Governor Jim Justice amended Monday’s special session by asking the West Virginia Legislature to clarify the state’s abortion laws.
Last week, the Justice Department called the Legislative Assembly into special session to discuss a proposed personal income tax cut. Just as the two houses met, the governor sent out a statement adding the issue of abortion.
House Democrats say they were caught off guard.
In a press release, the West Virginia Democratic Party pointed out that less than a week ago, Justice said it could be months before the legislature passes abortion.
“Apparently Governor Justice couldn’t get his backroom tax cut deal done without a deal guaranteeing a return to backroom abortions,” Democratic Vice President Del said. Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia. “I’m afraid this is a huge step backwards for reproductive health care for West Virginia.”
Of the. Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, minority chair of the Health and Human Resources Committee, agreed that the motivation for the sudden change lies in the governor’s tax proposal.
“I find it disgusting that apparently the governor was unable to get the votes for his tax cut, so he’s using West Virginia women and reproductive health care as a bargaining chip to get whatever he wants,” Pushkin said. “The people of West Virginia deserve better.”
Pushkin echoed Walker in expressing concern that this could lead to a rollback of reproductive health care in the state.
House Republicans said they are gearing up for the abortion amendment starting Sunday night. The governor met with the Republican caucus on Sunday afternoon.
Of the. Daniel Linville, R-Cabell, said an abortion clinic resuming services deeply concerned the super majority and he saw no problem in creating legislation for both issues.
“It’s just the willingness of many in the House and Senate majority to speak out on the issue of abortion,” Linville said. “I don’t consider the two to be related at all.”
Lawmakers on both sides have said this special session could last for days.