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West Virginia’s last abortion provider says ruling and state law now make that impossible

The last remaining abortion provider in West Virginia now says it cannot continue doing because of concerns that today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe vs. Wade might have activated a felony ban that has been in state code since the late 1800s.

“Due to the inaction of our lawmakers to repeal the crime of abortion in our state code, it is impossible for our clinic to provide abortion,” said Katie Quinonez, executive director of Women’s Health Center of West Virginia.

“This will force West Virginians to travel hundreds to thousands of miles away from their home to access healthcare and will harm marginalized communities the most.”

During a press conference about the effects of the Supreme Court decision, Quinonez said the clinic had to reach out to patients to let them know abortion would not be possible in West Virginia. “I would say probably between 60 and 70 patients,” Quinonez said.

The health center put out a statement today concluding that West Virginia prosecutors could begin trying to immediately enforce an abortion ban from 1882.

The Supreme Court’s ruling overturning a national guarantee of abortion rights kicks policies to the states.

The law on the books in West Virginia says administering an abortion is a felony punishable by three to 1o years imprisonment. Women’s Health Center interprets that as applying to physicians or people seeking an abortion.

That law dates back to the earliest days of the state and has not been in use for the past half-century. The law says:

Any person who shall administer to, or cause to be taken by, a woman, any drug or other thing, or use any means, with intent to destroy her unborn child, or to produce abortion or miscarriage, and shall thereby destroy such child, or produce such abortion or miscarriage, shall be guilty of a felony, and, upon conviction, shall be confined in the penitentiary not less than three nor more than ten years; and if such woman die by reason of such abortion performed upon her, such person shall be guilty of murder. No person, by reason of any act mentioned in this section, shall be punishable where such act is done in good faith, with the intention of saving the life of such woman or child.

American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia agreed that the law still on the books might be interpreted to immediately outlaw abortion.

Loree Stark

“We are still reviewing the decision in its entirety, analyzing how it relates to federal and state law, and aggressively exploring every possible avenue forward. West Virginians should be able to get the lifesaving healthcare they need, and no one should be forced to carry a pregnancy to term against their will,” said Loree Stark, legal director of ACLU of West Virginia.

Margaret Chapman Pomponio

Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of West Virginia Free, said the Supreme Court ruling and the existing state law would produce an immediate chilling effect on physicians who perform abortions.

Pomponio urged West Virginia lawmakers to change the law.

“We need the entire section repealed. It should have been repealed long ago,” she said.

Patrick Morrisey

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican, said his office will examine the ruling and produce its own legal analysis of the effect on state law.

Asked his view of the law’s status at this moment, Morrisey said, “As we are providing legal counsel on the law, I would ask everyone — this is the time to assure there are no abortions. We should actually take the time to save as many lives as humanly possible.

“We’ll work through more of the details but in the meantime, let’s start saving babies’ lives today.’

Kayla Young

Delegate Kayla Young, D-Kanawha, expressed disappointment over the Supreme Court ruling. Young said West Virginia’s law should be revised to remove its felony penalty.

“I’d like to see the criminal code taken out, that Roe is now a felony in West Virginia as of 10 o’clock this morning,” Young said.

Women’s Health Center of West Virginia remains open and provides birth control, breast and cervical cancer screening, gender affirming care, pregnancy and parenting support, STI testing and treatment, and wellness exams.

The center advised West Virginians seeking abortion access to visit abortionfinder.org and call the National Abortion Federation Hotline at 1-877-257-0012.

“Roe has never been enough, but in states like West Virginia, it was the only thing protecting abortion access,” Quinonez said.

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