Analysis

West Virginia judge blocks law protecting preborn children

Texas

Following a lawsuit filed by a local abortion facility, a judge has blocked an 1800s pro-life law from taking effect in West Virginia following the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

The Women’s Health Center of West Virginia filed a lawsuit at the end of June, asking for WV Code § 61-2-8, or the “Criminal Abortion Ban” in the injunction, to be stopped. The law was put in place in 1849, and the abortion facility claimed it was too old to be allowed to take effect, and that more recent legislation should take precedence.

West Virginia did not have a trigger law in place banning abortion, but voters had previously approved an amendment to the state constitution denying a right to abortion, and action was never taken to repeal the 1849 law protecting preborn human beings.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey responded less than two weeks later, saying that bills passed more recently do not override state legal code. Yet Kanawha County Circuit Tera Salango disagreed, saying the law was too vague, and conflicts with other state laws. The ACLU, which also sued to block the law, celebrated the ruling on Twitter.

READ: West Virginia governor signs law protecting preborn babies with disabilities from abortion

“VICTORY: A Court has blocked West Virginia’s cruel and archaic abortion ban by issuing a preliminary injunction,” they wrote. “Our work isn’t done yet, however. We will need you to stand with us in the coming fight at the legislature.”

The only abortion facility in West Virginia, the Women’s Health Center, had previously stopped committing abortions. But they will now begin committing them again.

“We have been proud to provide essential abortion services to West Virginians for nearly 50 years, and we’re determined to continue doing so for as long as we’re able. The impacts of abortion being pushed out of reach for the last month have been devastating. Our patients deserve more from their elected leaders,” Katie Quiñonez, executive director of Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, said in a statement. “Today’s decision is a sigh of relief, and means we can once again serve the people who reach out to us for abortion services. Make no mistake: Essential health care shouldn’t depend on the whims of a court or politicians, it should be based on compassion and what’s best for one’s life and future. We won’t stop fighting for the ability to serve our patients with the care they need — not now, and not ever.”

Yet Morrisey also said he plans to appeal the injunction in an e-mailed press release.

“This is a dark day for West Virginia,” he said. “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.”

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