CUMBERLAND, Md. — A new women’s health center that will open in Maryland this June is being met with opposition while others are praising the move which will increase access for pregnant women seeking abortions in West Virginia.
The Women’s Health Center of Maryland will be located in Cumberland, Md., just five miles across the border. This comes after the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia in Charleston, the state’s only abortion clinic, was forced to stop offering the procedures after state lawmakers passed a near-total abortion ban last September.
Without further ado, Women’s Health Center of Maryland will open in June 2023 just minutes from the West Virginia border!🥳
The Cumberland clinic will offer a full-range of reproductive health services including medical and procedural abortion up to 16 weeks, as well as GAHT🌈 pic.twitter.com/fAnFBenijV
— Women's Health Center of Maryland (@womenshealthmmd) March 27, 2023
The new West Virginia law does not allow for abortion at any time during pregnancy, except for some limited circumstances. In recent years, the law had allowed abortion up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Alisa Clements, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, recently told MetroNews the new facility in Cumberland means fewer West Virginia women will have to travel hundreds of miles to receive an abortion.
“There is a current abortion desert in Central Appalachia created by anti-abortion lawmakers. This additional clinic is going to make such a huge impact on reproductive health care access for the people in our state and in this region,” Clements said.
Katie Quiñonez, executive director of the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, will also serve as the Maryland clinic’s executive director. Quiñonez and those with the facility in Charleston filed a federal lawsuit in February over the state’s abortion ban, calling it “irrational and unconstitutional.”
“Every person deserves to access the critical care they need, but this law pushes essential abortion care out of reach,” Quiñonez said at the time.
The lawsuit came after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the landmark Roe vs. Wade federal guarantee of abortion and sent policy decisions back to the states.
Supporters of West Virginia’s new abortion law, including State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, have said the ban protects innocent lives.
Sadie Keaton, legislative director for West Virginians for Life (WVFL), told MetroNews the opening of a new clinic so close to the Mountain State is unfortunate.
“We’re very disappointed that the abortion facility is going to open so close to our border and essentially target women in West Virginia for abortion,” she said.
Keaton said their hope is that women seek other services to help with their pregnancy.
“What we’re trying to do is not just make abortion illegal, but we’re trying to create a culture of life in our state where every baby, mother and her family is seen as a gift rather than a burden or inconvenience,” she said.
According to West Virginia’s law, a licensed medical provider who performs or induces an abortion, must file a report within 15 days with the Commissioner of the Bureau of Public Health.
Clements said the decision to have an abortion should be made between a doctor and the patient, not by lawmakers.
“Every pregnancy is different, and every person is different. We need to have politicians not putting their beliefs and their interference on these important medical decisions,” Clements said.
Clements said an abortion could help save the mother’s life.
“When people are denied access to this health care, it harms them,” she said.
I’ve said it many times, I stand for life. So, today, I signed a bill establishing the West Virginia Mothers and Babies Pregnancy Support Program, which raises the adoption tax credit and will supply pregnancy help organizations with necessary funding. pic.twitter.com/8Ng17SgMs1
— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) March 29, 2023
Gov. Jim Justice last week signed a bill, HB 2002, that would support mothers during pregnancy and after a child is born. The new law establishes the West Virginia Mothers and Babies Pregnancy Support Program which would create a funding mechanism for the state’s pregnancy help centers.
Those 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.
State lawmakers have allocated $1 million for the first year of the program. Abortion organizations may not be awarded funding under the new law.
The law also increases West Virginia’s adoption tax credit from $4,000 to $5,000.
WVFL President Wanda Franz said in as statement, “WVFL is proud to be able to participate with so many pro-life supporters in preparing and passing legislation to help support the centers engaged in bringing these innocent lives into a world where they can receive loving care.”
Keaton said the new law means pregnant women who can’t care for a child will have options other than abortion.
“Many of these organizations, like pregnancy resource centers, they offer not only emotional support for mothers during pregnancy but provides materials that she’ll need throughout her pregnancy and then for years and years after the baby is born as well,” she said.
Caitlin Connors, southern regional director for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, commented on the new Maryland clinic in a statement last week:
“The pregnancy help centers 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. 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 said.
Dozens of independent clinics across the country have been forced to close their doors after Roe v. Wade was overturned. In 14 states, there are no abortion clinics at all.
The clinic in Cumberland will provide abortion services into the second trimester and will accept Maryland Medicaid, which covers abortion. It will also offer annual exams, contraception, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, as well as breast and cervical cancer screenings.
West Virginia’s clinic is still open and offers reproductive health care, except abortions.