WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) — Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston praised the West Virginia Legislature for passing the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, making West Virginia the 11th state to pass such legislation.

The Legislature voted to override Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s veto of the bill with a 77-16 vote in the House of Delegates March 4 and a 27-5 vote in the state Senate March 6.

It was the first time in almost 30 years that the West Virginia Legislature voted to override a governor’s veto. The bill will become law in 90 days.


Bishop Bransfield thanked the lawmakers for their actions in a letter published in the March 6 issue of the diocese’s newspaper, The Catholic Spirit.

“I am very proud of the members of our state Legislature, who overwhelmingly adopted this legislation for the second year in a row,” he said in the letter. “I commend West Virginians for Life for bringing this bill forward once again this year and I applaud our state delegates and senators for carefully examining this bill and voting in favor of the defense of innocent human life from the terrible pain inflicted by abortion.”

He made similar comments March 7 during the TV weekend Mass the diocese broadcasts throughout the state from the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling.

The Mountain State’s legislators came together “to protect unborn children from unnecessary pain and suffering,” Bishop Bransfield said in his homily.

He said they had the courage to recognize “the rights of the unborn to be free from pain and who have reminded us by their own commitment that intentionally causing pain to another is wrong. I thank the many men and women across this state who have labored over these past two years to pass this legislation and see protection against pain to be enshrined in our laws.”

Those serving in the Legislature have a responsibility to protect life, but Catholics as well have an obligation to stay informed and to defend life, Bishop Bransfield said.

The measure first passed the House by an 88-12 vote Feb. 11. It passed the Senate 29-5 Feb. 25. Tomblin vetoed the measure March 3.

Bishop Bransfield joined West Virginians for Life Feb. 11 in supporting the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act at the annual Pro-Life Rally and Day at the Legislature in Charleston.

West Virginians for Life officials also praised the lawmakers’ override of the governor’s veto.

“This bill reflects the most current medical research, which clearly demonstrates that human beings feel pain beginning at least by 20 weeks gestation,” said Wanda Franz, the group’s president. “West Virginia children will now be protected from pain and abuse from the beginning of the time that they are capable of suffering from pain.”

Elsewhere in the country, the Catholic bishops of New Mexico asked the state Senate to pass a measure to ban abortions after 20 weeks, after the House approved it March 7. The House also approved a bill that requires notifying parents at least 48 hours before a minor girl has an abortion. Both measures include exceptions for cases of rape, incest, sexual abuse and when the mother’s life is in danger.

In Washington state, Republicans in both chambers of the Legislature have introduce a bill requiring a doctor to notify parents 48 hours before a minor girl has an abortion and a “personhood” bill guaranteeing the right to life from the moment of conception.

In Colorado Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life Action, testified March 3 on behalf of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act.

The bill, which was voted down later in the day, would have required medical professionals to provide nourishment and “reasonable medical care and treatment or surgical care” to every infant born alive in the state of Colorado regardless of his or her stage of gestational development.

In Arkansas, pro-lifers holding a peaceful prayer vigil outside the Fayetteville Planned Parenthood abortion facility along state Highway 265 won the right to display their signs during the vigil after an Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department employee told them they were not allowed to display signs — even hand-held signs — at the vigil. The official threatened each participant with a fine between $25 and $100 if they continued to hold any signs.

The Chicago-based Thomas More Society challenged the state on what it called censorship of the Fayetteville 40 Days for Life participants’ pro-life signs. The highway department in a letter to the pro-life law firm said the pro-lifers’ had a right to display the signs, officially confirming “what we already knew to be true: The First Amendment applies even next to a state highway,” said one of the firm’s lawyers.


Rowan is editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.