Gov. Joe Manchin isn’t about to add a pro-life item aimed at narrowing the scope of tax-paid abortions in West Virginia to a special legislative session expected to coincide with next weekend’s interims meetings.

Manchin was challenged Friday by his Republican rival, Russ Weeks, to include a proposal to limit the use of tax dollars for abortions in cases of rape, incest and risks to the mothers’ lives — the only avenues allowed by the federal government when tax dollars are spent.

Manchin has enjoyed the support of West Virginians for Life for years, harking back to his days as a state senator, but Weeks claimed the governor actually has done nothing the past two years to advance the pro-life issue.

“He has taken away more than he has put into the pro-life movement,” Weeks said, saying Manchin could have used his power to compel the House Judiciary Committee to act on two key bills within the last two years.

One was the parental notification bill, and the other issue was an attempt to bring West Virginia into line with the federal government in tax-paid abortions.

Manchin’s communications director, Lara Ramsburg, said special sessions are devoted to emergency funding matters, and that the abortion issue is a policy matter that should be discussed in a longer, regular legislative session.

Weeks disagreed, noting Manchin inserted in a special session a year ago a rewrite of the proposed Logan’s Law that led to tougher penalties for sex offenders who target children.

“That’s a good example of he who interprets the rules sets the rules,” the former state senator said.

West Virginia is among 18 states that allow tax dollars for abortion on demand, and since 1993, the state has spent $5 million to finance more than 12,000 such procedures, the Beckley resident said.

Weeks won a Senate seat in 2002 largely on his reputation as a pro-life leader in Raleigh County.

Meantime, a shakeup has occurred within the ranks of West Virginians for Life with the recent resignation of its executive director, Melissa Adkins.

Weeks attributed it to a family illness that requires Adkins’ constant attention, but Republican political consultant Gary Abernathy says turmoil is churning within the group over a rift in whether to endorse Manchin or Weeks.

“After the initial decision was made to make no endorsement in the primary, the governor angrily confronted WVFL officials and eventually they agreed to endorse him ... along with Weeks ... in the primary,” Abernathy wrote in his Web site, known as The Republican Gazette.

Adkins didn’t return telephone voice messages left at her home and cell phone this week. Nor did WVFL respond to a telephonic message.

Weeks vowed to include at least one anti-abortion proposal in every State of the State address if elected governor.

“As governor, I will end taxpayer funding of abortion on demand either by executive order or, if necessary, legislative action,” he said.

“I challenge the governor, who claims to be pro-life, to demonstrate some kind of commitment to the issue through the office he holds.”

— E-mail: mannix

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