An abortion clinic in West Virginia is suing the state medical board over an anti-abortion bill, passed into law last fall, that bans the procedure in nearly every circumstance.
Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, along with its head physician (whose name is listed as John Doe in the lawsuit) describes multiple aspects of the law as “irrational,” adding that the law unconstitutionally restricts people’s right to make decisions about their own reproductive health.
“Every person deserves to access the critical care they need, but this law pushes essential abortion care out of reach,” Katie Quiñonez, Women’s Health Center of West Virginia executive director, said in a statement. “With each day this ban remains in effect, we are forced to turn patients away because politicians took away their power to make the best medical decisions for themselves during pregnancy.”
Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, which is assisting the clinic and the doctor in the lawsuit, also condemned the law.
“The cruel and medically unjustified provisions of this law effectively push care out of reach entirely, and the so-called exceptions are just an illusion. No one should be forced to carry a pregnancy to term against their will and we’ll continue fighting until everyone can get the care they need — regardless of where they live,” Kolbi-Molinas said.
The West Virginia law, which was passed shortly after the federal Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, bans abortion at all stages of pregnancy, only allowing exceptions for rape or incest, or to save the life of a pregnant person.
If a person becomes pregnant as a result of rape, they must obtain an abortion within eight weeks, a timeframe in which many people may not even be aware they are pregnant. They are also required to alert police to their sexual assault before they can get an abortion. The law only allows children who are victims of rape to get an abortion within 14 weeks of becoming pregnant.
The law also requires abortions to be performed in a hospital or by a doctor who has hospital admitting privileges, which has never been required by the state at any point in history, either before or after Roe, the lawsuit says.
“At no point did the Legislature consider or receive any testimony or evidence linking the Hospitalization or Privileges Requirements to any legitimate interest in the health or safety of abortion patients,” the lawsuit states, noting that one lawmaker even “acknowledged their purpose was to ‘shut down’ [the clinic] as the only remaining provider of abortion services in the state.”
The health clinic is asking for courts to block the law and for an immediate injunction on the law’s enforcement while the outcome of the lawsuit is being determined.
The law is “inflicting irreparable harm on the ability of [Women’s Health Center of West Virginia] to fulfill its professional mission and purpose to provide reproductive health care that respects patients’ choices, including the decision not to continue a pregnancy to term,” the lawsuit adds.
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