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West Virginia Health Providers Plan New Clinic to Circumvent State Abortion Ban

“We told y’all we weren’t going back!” said one reproductive justice activist in the state.

This week, the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia — the lone abortion clinic in the state before Gov. Jim Justice (R) signed an abortion ban into law last September — announced that it will be opening a clinic roughly five miles from the state border in abortion-friendly Maryland.

“This will save lives in West Virginia and beyond,” said the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia, which is currently representing the health center in a battle over the constitutionality of the abortion ban in courts. “You cannot stop the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia. Not now, not ever.”

The Women’s Health Center of Maryland, which is set to open in Cumberland in June, will be the only independent abortion provider in the area and the western-most provider in the state. It will offer a range of reproductive health services, including medical and procedural abortion up to 16 weeks and gender-affirming care for children and adults.

The clinic will meet health care needs in an “abortion desert,” Katie Quiñonez, executive director of the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, told AP News. “Hours in any direction, there are no other abortion providers here — it’s smack dab in the middle of an absolute abortion desert, and that’s by design.”

The Maryland clinic will also offer gender-affirming care for youth, which was partially banned in West Virginia this week. Cathryn Oakley, the state legislative director of the Human Rights Campaign, condemned the attacks on trans kids in the state as “dangerous, spiteful, and … just another example of hateful people in positions of power abusing their authority to achieve their own political goals —harming the children of West Virginia in the process.”

News of the Maryland clinic was widely celebrated by trans West Virginians and reproductive justice advocates.

“When they make it illegal to get an abortion in WV and make it harder to get gender affirming care — The Women’s Health Center opens a new location right over the border in Maryland to give us access to both,” reproductive justice activist Jamie Miller said on Twitter.

“We told y’all we weren’t going back!” said Ash Orr, a trans reproductive justice activist who organized against West Virginia’s abortion ban. In July, while testifying against the abortion ban in a hearing, Orr had their mic cut off and was escorted off the floor.

While West Virginia’s clinic will continue to provide reproductive services other than abortion, as well as gender-affirming care for people above the age of 18, the Maryland clinic will vastly expand access to abortion and trans health care for West Virginians and rural Marylanders.

“Roe fell, but we’re still standing. Abortion will be legal again in West Virginia in my lifetime, and I’ll be just one of many people who plays a part in that happening,” Quiñonez told USA Today. “Dobbs did not break us — if anything, Dobbs taught me how strong we are.”

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