After bill’s passage, West Virginia’s only abortion clinic once again says it has to stop

After bill’s passage, West Virginia’s only abortion clinic once again says it has to stop

Now that West Virginia’s Legislature has passed a bill banning abortion except for a few exceptions, the state’s only clinic says it has again halted the procedure.

Katie Quinonez

“We provided abortion care for nearly 50 years, and while we have been forced to pause this care right now, we will continue providing the many other essential services we offer,” stated Katie Quinonez, executive director of the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, citing annual exams, birth control, cancer screenings family planning and more.

“We won’t stop fighting for your right to access comprehensive reproductive health care, and we remain committed to providing the care our community needs.”

West Virginia lawmakers on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a comprehensive bill restricting abortion. In recent years, West Virginia law had allowed abortion up to 20 weeks of gestation.

If the governor signs the abortion bill, it would go into effect right away.

Abortions would be allowed under limited circumstances: if a fetus is not medically viable, if the pregnancy is ectopic, which is when a fertilized egg implants and grows outside the main cavity of the uterus, or if there is a medical emergency, not including psychological or mental health situations.

The bill specifies that several things are not considered abortion: a miscarriage, stillbirth, use of established cell lines or human fetal tissue research, in vitro fertilization or contraceptives.

Adults seeking abortions in cases of rape or incest have up to eight weeks and must make a police report. Minors who are victims of incest or sexual assault may undergo an abortion within 14 weeks and may either make a report to law enforcement or be treated by a licensed medical professional in the hospital. The medical treatment may not be provided by the same person providing the abortion.

The bill specifies that the abortions that are performed must be in a hospital by a licensed medical professional with hospital privileges.

Those conditions led some legislators to conclude the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia would be severely challenged to continue.

Robert Karnes

Senator Robert Karnes, R-Randolph, specifically described that as a positive outcome.

“By requiring only medical doctors and osteopathic doctors to be able to prescribe and perform the abortions and to require the admitting privileges at a local hospital, I believe that maneuver, more than anything else we’ve done, is what’s going to shut down the abortion clinic here in West Virginia, and it’s the only one we have, and I believe it is going to save a lot of babies,” he said.

Eric Tarr

Senator Eric Tarr, R-Tarr, voted against the bill because he said it’s not restrictive enough. But Tarr’s remarks on the Senate floor also focused on what would happen to the women’s center.

“I’ve heard the argument said that if we can just get the abortion clinic closed — and I agree, this bill does that — this bill will save a lot of lives in West Virginia,” Tarr said. “I’m confident this bill shuts down the abortion clinic. I’m confident that it’s going to reduce the abortions.”

After the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling rolled back a federally-guaranteed right to abortion, the Women’s Health Center halted the procedure because of a law in West Virginia from the late 1800s that made abortion a felony. The center won its argument in circuit court and resumed taking appointments for abortions until the new law passed this week.

The center’s lawsuit challenging an abortion law that had been on West Virginia’s books since the late 1800s contended, in part, that an abortion ban would cause the kind of harm that could make it difficult to continue other services.

Abortion care counts for about 40 percent of the center’s revenue, the lawsuit stated, and being forced to stop providing the procedure would result in a budget deficit. The center stated it only has enough budgeted to keep staff through the end of 2022. Layoffs have been necessary already, the lawsuit stated.

” As seen in other states, restricting abortion care can lead to permanent clinic closures, even when the restrictions ultimately are vacated,” the lawsuit stated. “That is so because restarting an abortion care practice can present significant logistical and financial challenges.”

The lawsuit continued, “Having to stop providing abortion care is also frustrating WHC’s ability to fulfill its mission, which is to provide reproductive health care that respects patients’ choices.”

Mike Pushkin

Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, echoed that concern when he talked about the center during debate in the House.

“They do more than perform abortions. They actually have a lot of care for women. They check for cancer, and also they provide sex education. I guarantee they have prevented more unwanted pregnancies than any politician has ever dreamed of,” Pushkin said.

“This legislation will shut that facility down, and worse than that is it robs people of a fundamental freedom to make a decision for themselves.”

Quinonez, the women’s center director, said the abortion policies will have broad effects on vulnerable citizens. She cited statistics that 16 percent of West Virginians live below the poverty line and that West Virginia ranks 49th in the nation for women living in poverty.

“People who can’t get an abortion face economic hardship which lasts for years. Being denied an abortion lowers a person’s credit score and increases their amount of debt and likelihood of eviction or bankruptcy,” she said.

“This abortion ban is an attack on West Virginia parents, domestic violence survivors, children, working class families, people of color and so many more. It will push more and more West Virginians into poverty.”

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