CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – After the West Virginia State Legislature passed House Bill 302, the only clinic that provides abortions in the state says they are forced to put abortions on pause, but their other services will not be affected.
Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, which is in Charleston, said while it is pausing abortion services, it will not be closing and will continue to provide other services, including annual exams, birth control, cancer screenings, family planning, gender-affirming hormone therapy, pregnancy and parenting support, and STI testing and treatment.
“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.”
House Bill 302 clarifies the state law on abortions, creating a ban on abortions in West Virginia with some exceptions. The law creates exceptions for fetal anomalies, medical emergencies, non-viable fetuses and pregnancies resulting from rape and incest. Additional criteria for those exceptions are that they must be performed in a hospital within eight weeks for adults and 14 weeks for minors.
The bill also states that there will be no felony penalties for doctors or pregnant women who do perform or get an abortion, but the doctor’s license will be revoked. It would, however, be a felony for someone who is not a licensed professional to perform an abortion.
The bill passed the State Senate in a 22-7 vote and the House of Delegates in a 78-17 vote.
“This total abortion ban is devastating, but unfortunately comes as no surprise. This is part of a calculated, decades-long effort by the forced birth movement to dismantle access to abortion and contraception so they can maintain power and control,” Officials with the clinic said. “West Virginians do not want abortion bans. Inserting politicians into medical decisions that should be made between a patient and their clinician directly conflicts with our state motto: ‘Mountaineers are always free.'”
Clinic employees also expressed frustration that the bill was added to the July special session agenda in the first place, claiming West Virginia Governor Jim Justice “lied” by saying it would not be added, and then adding the bill “at the last minute.” They were also upset that Senate President Craig Blair chose to call the State Senate back into session after previously saying he did not intend to do so.
The clinic also accused the House of making the vote “behind closed doors” after the public was ordered out of the galleries due to loud protests that disrupted the proceedings. The proceedings were livestreamed for public viewing.
Clinic officials also said they are concerned about the economic impact for those denied an abortion. According to the clinic, being denied an abortion can lower a person’s credit score and increase their amount of debt. They said this is even more of an issue because nearly 16% of West Virginians live below the poverty line.