WHEELING, W.Va. — Bishop Mark E. Brennan of Wheeling-Charleston and pro-life leaders of West Virginia lauded the state Legislature for passing an abortion ban Sept. 13.

The bill banning most abortions in the state, with some exceptions, now waits for Gov. Jim Justice’s signature.

H.B. 302 was passed by the Senate 22-7 and by the House of Delegates 78-17.

“The action taken by our elected officials to provide greater legal protection for the unborn is an important step in fostering a sincere culture of life in the Mountain State,” Brennan said in a statement.

“It is clear that work remains to be done to soften hearts and create a society that values and protects every human life,” the bishop continued. “It is clear that it will take time to heal the personal and societal scars from abortion permitted for so long under the Roe regime.”

He prayed that as a state, “we continue to move toward these moral and just ends.”

Brennan encouraged state lawmakers “to continue to lead us in that direction by providing ample resources to support women and children, by expanding access to quality and affordable child care, by promoting paid maternity and family leave, by better protecting victims of domestic violence, by promoting and facilitating adoption, and by addressing food insecurity.”

“A culture that values life will bind and unite us; it will orient us toward seeking the common good for one another,” the bishop said in the statement.

Brennan took his commitment to building a culture of life and fostering outreach to pregnant women and mothers in need in West Virginia a step further in August with the addition of Kathy Barton as the diocese’s new director of social ministries.

She began her job Aug. 8 by focusing on pro-life issues, starting with abortion. Among other outreach initiatives, Barton is helping parishes create ministries in their communities to help pregnant women who are facing challenges but also bringing support to them after their babies are born.

“These women are lost,” Barton told The Catholic Spirit, the diocesan newspaper, in early September. “These women don’t know where to turn. So, it is about creating a place, and why can’t the church be that place where we welcome them lovingly and in a nonjudgmental way, (where) we love mom and child. Because the only way that we can save that child is to save mom’s heart first.”

With the governor’s signature, the bill will immediately become law in West Virginia. The bill would ban abortions “unless in the reasonable medical judgment of a licensed medical professional” there exists a nonmedically viable fetus; there exists an ectopic pregnancy; or there exists a medical emergency.

West Virginians for Life also celebrated the bill.

“Today the West Virginia Legislature has passed a bill that will save thousands of babies’ lives here in West Virginia,” the organization’s president, Wanda Franz, said in a news release from the group. “WVFL thanks the pro-life legislators who support protection for all human life.”

“For years, the people of West Virginia have fought tirelessly in defense of the unborn,” Sadie Shields, West Virginians for Life legislative director, said in the news release. “Today we see our effort turned into life-saving law.

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