Morrisey to 'Issue Guidance' as Pre-Roe Abortion Laws Go Into Effect

Updated: Jun 26

June 25, 2022

Mountaineer News

CHARLESTON, WV - With West Virginia’s pre-Roe V. Wade abortion ban going back into effect, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced he will issue guidance to lawmakers on how they should proceed.

“In the next few days, I will be providing a legal opinion to the Legislature about how it should proceed to save as many babies’ lives as humanly and legally possible,” the attorney general said in a statement.

On Friday morning, the Supreme Court ruled a Mississippi law to ban most abortions after 15 weeks is legal and constitutional. This ruling overturned Roe V. Wade and other Supreme Court precedents, which found states could not ban abortions before a fetus is viable, which occurs at about 24 weeks. Per the new ruling, the Supreme Court found the constitution does not protect a right to an abortion.

Before Roe V. Wade was decided in 1973, West Virginia had laws banning abortion and any person who administers an abortion was subject to criminal penalties. Because those laws were never taken off the books, the Supreme Court ruling allows them to immediately go back into effect.

According to state law, a person who administers drugs to a woman or uses other means to try to “destroy her unborn child” or produce an abortion or miscarriage can be convicted of a felony if the procedure or the drugs work. If a person is found guilty of violating this law, he is subject to a jail sentence between three and 10 years, but if the procedure causes the woman to die, he is guilty of murder. The only exception written into the law is when the drugs or procedure are used to save the life of the woman or the child.

Some pro-life groups have asked lawmakers to update the language because the current law is more than a century old. Because Roe V. Wade had been in effect for about a half of a century, there is not any recent court precedent that interprets the state’s abortion ban and many people are unsure how it would be enforced or applied.

“This historic decision is long past due, although it took nearly 50 years to overturn several flawed Supreme Court decisions that have led to the tragic deaths of more than 60 million unborn children,” Morrisey said in a statement. “I am proud to stand with those who agree that the law must afford the unborn the same rights as everyone, most especially the inviolable right to life. Our Constitution should never have been interpreted in a way that lets it override the states’ compelling interest to protect innocent life.”

Gov. Jim Justice applauded the Supreme Court’s ruling and said in a statement that he would call a special session if lawmakers need to clarify the state’s prohibition on abortion.

“I applaud the Supreme Court’s courageous decision today,” Justice said. “I’ve said many times that I very proudly stand for life and I am rock-solid against abortion, and I believe that every human life is a miracle worth protecting. I will not hesitate to call a special session after consulting with the Legislature and my legal team if clarification in our laws needs to be made.”

The West Virginia Democratic Party criticized the Supreme Court’s decision in a statement.

“This draconian decision puts women’s healthcare on the ballot in November,” Del. Kayla Young, D-Kanawha, said. “We need to elect legislators who understand that reproductive decisions are best made by a woman and her physician, rather than the government.”

Republicans hold a supermajority in both chambers of the legislature.

In 2018, West Virginians voted to amend the state constitution to clarify that no provision in the constitution protects a right to abortion. That amendment passed with nearly 52% of the statewide vote.