W.Va.’s lone abortion clinic ends services

W.Va.’s lone clinic ends abortion services after new restrictions
Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 2:07 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The Women’s Health Center of West Virginia stood as the state’s only abortion clinic -- until Wednesday.

It came one day after state lawmakers passed a near-total ban on abortion.

The law’s passage left the clinic’s director angry and disgusted. She canceled future abortions, calling it the most patient-centered approach.

“I’m devastated for our patients,” said Katie Quinonez, executive director of the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia. “We truly believed that Governor Justice would quietly, in the dead of night, sign this abortion ban into law to stop as many people from accessing abortion as possible. So, we wanted to make sure that our patients were prepared and could make other arrangements to get the care that they need.”

The law allows for abortion in only narrow circumstances, including a medical emergency, a non-viable pregnancy and limited cases of rape and incest.

Any abortion permitted in those situations must be performed by a medical doctor or osteopath and take place inside of a state-licensed facility, such as a hospital. The physician also must have hospital admitting privileges in state.

“I believe that maneuver, more than anything else that we’ve done, is what’s going to shut down the abortion clinic here in West Virginia, and it’s the only one that we have, and so I believe that it is going to save a lot of babies,” argued Sen. Robert L. Karnes, R-Randolph, during Tuesday’s debate.

Quinonez believes those restrictions specifically targeted her clinic, one that lacks the necessary state license and relies upon medical doctors from out of state.

The law also prohibits the use of tele-medicine to prescribe any drug that would induce an abortion.

Del. Barbara Fleischauer and Sen. Robert D. Beach, both of Monongalia County, were among Democrats who opposed the legislation Tuesday.

“So women and girls in rural areas, their options are completely limited from making a decision that will that will affect them for the rest of their lives,” Fleischauer argued Tuesday.

“What’s going to increase, I should say, are unsafe abortions here in the state of West Virginia, putting the woman at risk.” Beach argued Tuesday.

Del. Kayla Kessinger, R- Fayette, contends the restrictions and penalties are key to reducing the risk.

“What we’re trying to accomplish with this is that with increased risk, there will be increased penalties,” Kessinger argued Tuesday.

The Women’s Health Center vowed it would not shut down -- despite the forecast of multiple lawmakers.

Quinonez estimates abortion accounts for half of the clinic’s annual budget.

“I would be remiss, if I didn’t say that, that is a huge financial concern for us, however, we are continuing to add more services whenever we identify needs that exist in our community,” she said.

Quinonez said the non-profit agency will continue providing many non-abortion services, including annual exams, birth control, cancer screenings, family planning, gender affirming hormone therapy, pregnancy/parenting support and STI testing/treatment.

The legislation awaits the governor’s signature. With regards to rape and incest, it permits abortion within eight weeks of pregnancy for an adult and within 14 weeks for a pregnant minor. Reporting standards must be met in both instances.