UPDATE: (4:51 P.M. on July 19, 2022): West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has filed a motion with the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia for a stay in a Kanawha County judge’s ruling to block the 1840s abortion law in the West Virginia State Code.
According to Cornell Law School, a stay is a court action that prevents a proceeding from continuing or prevents a ruling from being carried out. He says he is petitioning for the stay to allow the families to receive the funds they have already been awarded.
Morrisey called Judge Tera Salango’s ruling in the case “wrongly-decided” saying in part, “We believe it’s critical to file for an immediate stay in light of this flawed decision and seek this emergency measure to prevent immediate loss of precious life.”
Shortly after the ACLU-WV first announced the lawsuit to prevent the law from taking effect, Morrisey had said he would defend WV Code § 61-2-8. If it were to go back into effect, the law would make it a felony to perform or receive an abortion in West Virginia. If found guilty the patient and/or doctor could face no less than three years and as many as ten years behind bars.
Before Judge Salango’s ruling, the health center said due to the uncertainty surrounding that law and potential they could be prosecuted under it, they had to suspend abortions and turn away patients who were seeking essential care.
As of now, the motion for the stay has only been filed and the Supreme Court of Appeals has not made a ruling, meaning the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia can continue to schedule abortions for the time being.
CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – The only abortion clinic in the Mountain State will begin scheduling abortions again after a judge blocked an abortion ban law older than the state from being enforced.
The Women’s Health Center of West Virginia was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in Kanawha County Court seeking an injunction to prevent the ban from once again becoming law after the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade was overturned by the United States Supreme Court.
The health center said due to the uncertainty surrounding that law and potential they could be prosecuted under it, they had to suspend abortions and turn away patients who were seeking essential care. If found guilty under the 1840s law, the patient and/or doctor could face no less than three years and as many as ten years behind bars.
Officials with the Women’s Health Center of WV say the injunction will allow them to begin providing services to their patients 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,” said Katie Quiñonez, executive director of Women’s Health Center of West Virginia. “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.”
On Monday, July 18, Judge Tera Salango ruled the injunction was “appropriate,” stating that the state code has a lot of conflicts and is too vague to be applied.
“The people of West Virginia would have no way to know which set of statutes a particular law enforcement agency or county prosecutor would choose to apply and this is a result that cannot stand,” Salango said. “It simply does not matter whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, every citizen in this state has a right to clearly know the laws under which they are expected to live.”
The judge said there is too much confusion surrounding which laws would apply, and specifically pointed toward the Unborn Victims of Violence Act as an example asking prosecutors what they would do because the code would mean three to 10 years behind bars for those found guilty, but the act would include a maximum of a lifetime in prison.
Kanawha County attorneys said it would be a case-by-case basis as to which law applied.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says abortions are once again able to be performed in the Mountain State, but he plans to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia. He also claims that legislation passed after the original 1973 ruling in the Roe v. Wade case “never intended to repeal and replace the Act when it passed post-Roe regulations.”
“This is a dark day for West Virginia. We will appeal this decision to the Supreme Court of Appeals as soon as legally possible,” Morrisey said. “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.”