Republican West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice March 29 signed into law a measure supporters say will help mothers both during and after pregnancy.
The bill, HB 2002 establishes the West Virginia Mothers and Babies Pregnancy Support Program and grants funding to the state's pregnancy help centers. The state's Legislature allocated $1 million for the first year of the program and prohibited facilities that provide or refer for abortion from the funding.
The bill also increases West Virginia's adoption tax credit from $4,000 to $5,000 and makes adopted children eligible for additional state early-intervention services.
Justice, a governor with high approval ratings in his state, is seen as a top recruit for Senate Republicans seeking a challenger to incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in 2024. Manchin, a Catholic, is regarded as the Senate's last remaining pro-life Democrat. Justice has not yet formally announced whether he plans to run for Senate.
In a statement, Caitlin Connors, southern regional director for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, praised the new law, noting it follows an announcement from West Virginia's only abortion clinic that it would cease operations in the state, and instead open a new location in Cumberland, Maryland, about five miles from the West Virginia border.
"West Virginia's pregnancy centers empower women and impact lives for the better every day," Connors said in a statement. "These organizations provide free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, medical exams, counseling, parent classes, financial classes and resources such as food, diapers, clothing and financial assistance for housing and utilities."
Pregnancy help centers, Connors said, "are engaging in a labor of love."
"West Virginia's former abortion facility has chosen a very different path -- setting up shop just across the border in Maryland to make a profit at the expense of human lives," she said. "This is possible because of Maryland's extreme anti-child, anti-woman laws that allow abortion on demand at any point in pregnancy for virtually any reason."
Connors thanked bill sponsor Del. Dean Jeffries, a Republican, and Justice, saying that under their leadership, "West Virginia continues its legacy of being a state that values women and the unborn."