Judge blocks West Virginia abortion ban; state plans to appeal

Baby in the womb
An image of an unborn child. |

A judge has blocked the enforcement of West Virginia’s ban on most abortions, which predated the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, with the state intending to appeal the ruling.

Kanawha County Circuit Judge Tera Salango issued the block, which opened the door for the state’s lone abortion clinic, Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, to resume operations.

The clinic suspended its operations in late June after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe, due to a 19th century state law banning all abortions except in the event of a life-threatening medical emergency for the mother.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is helping to represent the abortion clinic suing West Virginia over the law, applauded the decision in a press release on Monday.

“The impacts of forcing women and pregnant people to carry to term and give birth against their will has life-altering consequences, including grappling with serious health risks, making it harder to escape poverty, and derailing education and career plans,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

“While today’s decision is an important first step, the fight is not over and we’re determined to use every tool at our disposal along the way to protect abortion access for West Virginians.”

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey denounced the decision, calling it a “dark day for West Virginia” and vowed to appeal the ruling, according to West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

“We will appeal this decision to the Supreme Court of Appeals as soon as legally possible,” said Morrisey. “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.”

West Virginia had an anti-abortion law from 1849 that, while blocked from being enforced when the Roe decision was in effect nationwide, was never officially repealed. 

In a memorandum from June 29, Morrisey wrote that the Antebellum-era law “is on the books and enforceable,” as are “many other abortion-related statutes” passed since then.

Morrisey recommended that state lawmakers “amend the laws in our state to provide for clear prohibitions on abortion that are consistent with Dobbs.”

“As the Legislature considers the many issues raised in this memorandum, we stand ready to defend the present suit against the 1849 abortion statute and take action upon a request from the governor to petition the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia to lift the current injunction against West Virginia’s partial-birth abortion law,” he concluded.

“We will continue to provide counsel in response to this landmark decision and changing legal landscape, as well as to update the Legislature and governor about ongoing developments in the courts.”

In addition to being a reporter, Michael Gryboski has also had a novel released titled The Enigma of Father Vera Daniel. For more information, click here.

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