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What’s Next For W.Va. After Roe v. Wade

Abortion Courts
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Abortion laws now return to the states.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade eliminates the constitutional right to an abortion.

Gov. Jim Justice favors the ruling that returns abortion law to the states.

“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.”

According to the Associated Press, “West Virginia currently bans abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy unless a patient’s life is in danger, or they face ‘substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.’ Patients seeking abortions must wait 24 hours after undergoing legislatively mandated counseling designed to discourage abortions. A minor who wants an abortion must obtain parental permission. The use of telemedicine to administer a medication abortion is outlawed.”

A new West Virginia law enacted last month regarding abortion and disabilites is titled “The Unborn Child With Down Syndrome Protection and Education Act.” The law prohibits licensed medical professionals from performing abortions if the fetus has a disability, unless there is a medical emergency or there is a non-medically viable fetus.

West Virginia only has one clinic that performs abortions — the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia in Charleston. In a statement following the Supreme Court ruling, Katie Quinonez, executive director of the center, said they will immediately discontinue providing abortions.

“Now, West Virginia prosecutors could begin trying to immediately enforce an abortion ban from 1882,” the statement reads. “State Code §61-2-8 makes it as felony for any person to cause an abortion. If convicted, a doctor or person seeking an abortion could be sentenced to between three and 10 years in prison.”

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

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

From the Associated Press - “It’s unclear what effect the overturning of Roe v. Wade will have on abortion access in West Virginia. The state has had a law banning abortion on the books since 1848; Under that law, providers who perform abortions can face felony charges and three to 10 years in prison, unless the abortion is conducted to save a patient’s life. In 2018, West Virginia voters approved a constitutional amendment to declare patients do not have the right to abortion and banning state funding for abortions.”

In a joint statement, Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, and Speaker of the House Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, said they are prepared to take action.

“We applaud the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today to affirm that every human life is precious. We stand strong with the majority of West Virginians who have shown us and told us they believe unborn children are entitled to the same rights as everyone, and we are ready to expeditiously take any necessary steps to ensure we continue to save and protect as many innocent lives as possible in West Virginia.

“Our legislative attorneys have been preparing for this decision for weeks. Abortion is addressed in numerous statutes in West Virginia Code, and now our attorneys will need to further review those statutes to determine how they apply in light of this decision. We will work with the executive branch to address any needs relating to our state’s abortion laws that may arise from today’s opinion.”

Government Reporter, ryohe@wvpublic.org, 304-634-8123

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