July 20, 2022
The Mountain State
STATEWIDE - West Virginia’s only abortion clinic has begun scheduling abortion procedures after a court ruling temporarily halting the state’s pre-Roe law banning most abortions.
“A judge has issued a temporary injunction blocking West Virginia’s 150-year-old abortion ban,” the Charleston-based Women's Health Center of West Virginia said in a statement earlier this week. “This means our clinic can begin scheduling abortion appointments and will provide abortions for as long as we legally can.”
Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Tera Salango granted the clinic a temporary injunction, which prevents the state from enforcing the abortion ban and allows the clinic to provide abortions for the time being. The court has not yet ruled on the validity of the law, but granted the temporary injunction because it found that the rules were unclear and the clinic was able to demonstrate irreparable harm.
The clinic, which is backed by the West Virginia American Civil Liberties Union, argued the pre-Roe abortion ban has been repealed by implication because the legislature had passed laws that regulated legal abortion when the Roe V. Wade ruling was in effect. Their lawyers argued the laws on the books conflict with the pre-Roe law, which makes it void.
“We applaud the court’s decision to block West Virginia’s archaic abortion ban, which has caused weeks of chaos and devastation in the state for people who need abortion care since Roe was overturned,” Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, the deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement. “The impacts of forcing women and pregnant people to carry to term and give birth against their will has life-altering consequences, including grappling with serious health risks, making it harder to escape poverty, and derailing education and career plans. While today’s decision is an important first step, the fight is not over and we’re determined to use every tool at our disposal along the way to protect abortion access for West Virginians.”
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is defending the state law in court, announced that he will appeal the ruling.
“This is a dark day for West Virginia,” Morrisey said in a statement. “We will appeal this decision to the Supreme Court of Appeals as soon as legally possible. As a strong pro-life advocate, I am committed to protecting unborn babies to the fullest extent possible under the law, and I will not rest until this injunction is lifted. The current law on the books calls for the protection of life.”
The attorney general argued the legislature never intended to repeal the state’s abortion ban when passing more recent abortion laws; rather, he argued it was an alternative method of enforcing restrictions when the law could not be enforced. He said the statutes do not irreconcilably conflict with each other since they were civil laws dealing with unregulated post-Roe abortions.
Gov. Jim Justice has already said he would call the legislature into a special session if the abortion ban could not be enforced. He said he would work with Republican leaders to ensure that the law is clarified to ensure the state enforces pro-life policies. Some Republican leaders, who hold a supermajority in both chambers of the legislature, have already expressed their support for this plan.
In 2018, West Virginia voters adopted an amendment to the state constitution to clarify that no provision in the document protects a right to abortion. The amendment garnered nearly 52% of the vote across the state.