|West Virginia’s only abortion clinic was going before a county judge on Monday to ask that an 1800s-era law be thrown out so the facility can immediately resume abortions.
The Women’s Health Center of West Virginia suspended abortion services on June 24, the day the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The state has an abortion ban on the books dating back 150 years that makes performing or obtaining an abortion a felony, punishable by up to a decade in prison. There is an exception for cases in which a pregnant person’s life is at risk.
The ACLU of West Virginia has argued on the clinic’s behalf that the old law is void because it hasn’t been enforced in more than 50 years and has been superseded by a slew of modern laws regulating abortion that acknowledge a woman’s right to the procedure. One example is West Virginia’s 2015 law, which allows abortions until 20 weeks.
In motions before Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Tera L. Salango in Charleston, the Women’s Health Center’s attorneys said abortion services are essential health care, and the state’s most vulnerable residents are put at risk every day they don’t have access to that care.
Staffers have canceled dozens of abortion appointments, fearing they or their patients could be prosecuted under the old statute. “When it was in effect, the statute was used to criminalize both people who seek and provide abortion care,” the ACLU said.