When Gov. Jim Justice announced an executive order this week forbidding elective medical procedures to save supplies for response to a coronavirus outbreak, he did not mention abortion.
That left citizens to read the order to determine its effects.
At the very end of another news conference today, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey offered his interpretation.
“This declaration is broad-based and applies to all facilities,” Morrisey said. “We’ve had some questions: Yes, it also applies to abortion facilities as well.”
That’s all Morrisey — or anyone else at the news conference — said about abortions.
And the attorney general made the comment after questions from reporters had ended. During the coronavirus pandemic, daily briefings have moved online, meaning reporters have some opportunities to ask a limited number of questions from off-site.
Other states that have included abortions in executive orders forbidding elective medical procedures have received constitutional challenges in the federal court system.
Two days ago, a federal judge in Ohio ruled a public health order could not be used during the coronavirus pandemic to restrict providers from performing abortions.
The judge said the state had not proven that performing surgical abortions would “result in any beneficial amount of net saving of PPE (personal protective equipment) in Ohio such that the net saving of PPE outweighs the harm of eliminating abortion.”
In Texas, a federal judge reached the same conclusion but an appeals court put that on hold for further consideration.
On Tuesday, when Justice announced West Virginia would halt elective medical procedures, he mentioned only a broad desire to save personal protective equipment such as surgical masks for use during a coronavirus outbreak.
“This is being done to conserve our personal protection equipment for our frontline healthcare workers that are battling this terrible virus,” Justice said Tuesday. “So all elective surgeries will be off the bubble as of tonight.”
The West Virginia Hospital Association, WVU Medicine and Charleston Area Medical Center all said their facilities had already been complying with a federal directive to halt elective procedures.
A few minutes after Justice announced the executive order, the West Virginians for Life organization issued a statement praising the governor and Morrisey.
On Wednesday, West Virginia’s Women’s Health Center, the state’s only only remaining abortion provider, provided its own statement following Morrisey’s comments.
“As medical experts have recognized, even during a pandemic, pregnant people require healthcare, whether that is abortion care or prenatal care and childbirth services,” the center stated. “That care cannot be delayed until after this crisis is over.”