West Virginia's last abortion clinic ends challenge to state's near-total abortion ban

April 18 (UPI) -- West Virginia's last abortion clinic said it is dismissing its lawsuit against the state's near-total abortion ban, as it no longer has a physician to perform the procedure.

The Women's Health Center of West Virginia filed its dismissal Monday, stating two physicians who have provided abortion care at the facility are no longer able to do so.


Though this development does not necessarily make their case moot, the center said it has determined "that it is in their best interests and the interests of judicial economy to voluntarily dismiss this case without prejudice at this time."

"The physicians who previously worked at the clinic are not able to resume providing abortion care in West Virginia at this time, and so the plaintiffs have decided to discontinue the lawsuit, but have reserved the right to refile if and when the circumstances are right," Aubrey Sparks, managing attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia, told UPI in an emailed statement.


The ACLU of WV is one of the legal entities that filed the lawsuit against the state late last year.

"The ACLU remains committed to using every tool at our disposal to ensure that everyone in West Virginia can get the essential care they need," Sparks said.

The center, which is located in Charlotte and has been the state's sole abortion clinic for more than five years, stopped providing abortion care in September when West Virginia became the second state in the country to outlaw the medical procedure after the conservative-leaning Supreme Court revoked federal protections by overturning the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling.

The bill, which easily passed both houses of the Republican-controlled legislature on Sept. 13, is among the nation's strictest, banning abortion from conception.

Narrow exceptions are in place to terminate pregnancies that threaten the life of the pregnant person and that are the result of rape and incest. However, pregnancies that result from such crimes can only be aborted within the first eight weeks of gestation for an adult and 14 weeks for a minor and the abortion must be reported to the authorities within 48 hours of the procedure being performed.


It also requires that all abortions be performed in a hospital.

Doctors who violate the ban are punished by having their medical license revoked, and if anyone but a licensed doctor performs an abortion, they could face criminal sentences between three and 10 years' imprisonment.

The ACLU, the ACLU of West Virgina and others filed the lawsuit against the state on the center's behalf on Nov. 1, arguing that H.B. 302 is "irrational" and inflicts irreparable harm to its mission and purpose and its doctors' constitutional rights as well as on the health and wellbeing of their patients and West Virginians seeking access to this form of medical care.

The center ended its lawsuit Monday saying in its filing that its primary physician, identified as Dr. John Doe, was not able to resume providing abortions "due to intervening professional obligations," while its second physician, who provided abortion care before the September ban during two half-days a month, "is now no longer available for that role."

West Virginia's Republican attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, said Monday that his office stands ready to defend its abortion ban should the lawsuit be refiled.

"As your first pro-life attorney general, I stand firm in the belief that it is our duty to protect innocent life -- we need to save as many innocent babies' lives as legally possible," he said in a statement.


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