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West Virginia Abortion Provider Drops Federal Lawsuit Over State Abortion Law

Women's Health Center of West Virginia said HB 302 was ‘part of a calculated, decades-long effort … to dismantle access to abortion and contraception’

An abortion provider in West Virginia has dropped a lawsuit challenging the state’s limitation on abortion after two and half months.

The Women’s Health Center of West Virginia voluntarily dropped its lawsuit against the President and Secretary of the West Virginia Board of Medicine on April 17.

In court filings, the center said it had “determined that it is in their best interests and the interests of judicial economy to voluntarily dismiss this case without prejudice at this time.”

Originally filed in February, the lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of the restrictions placed on abortions last fall by House Bill 302.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which assisted the abortion provider with the lawsuit, said HB 302 was “rushed through the West Virginia Legislature in under 24 hours, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade” and was “irrational and unconstitutional.”

“Since HB 302 took effect, West Virginians have been forced to either travel across state lines to access the essential care they need — or find themselves forced into pregnancy and giving birth against their will,” said the ACLU in a statement on Feb. 1. 

The plaintiff had asked for the law to be entirely blocked. 

West Virginia passed an abortion ban in September of 2022. Under the law, abortion is prohibited unless the fetus is not medically viable, the pregnancy is ectopic or there is a medical emergency. The law permits exceptions for pregnancy conceived through rape or incest up to 14 weeks. 

Doctors that violate the abortion restrictions can lose their medical licenses. No criminal penalties are imposed on women who receive abortions in the state.

“I said from the beginning that if [West Virginia] legislators brought me a bill that protected life and included reasonable and logical exceptions I would sign it, and that’s what I did today,” said Governor Jim Justice, per Forbes

The abortion provider denounced the law in a statement posted to Facebook on Sept. 14. 

The Women’s Health Center wrote:

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. 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 of “Mountaineers are always free.”

The people who make laws about our bodies will never be impacted by this abortion ban — they and their families will always be able to get the abortions they need. This abortion ban is part of the intertwined systems of oppression that deny BIPOC access to health care and other human rights.

Because of HB 302, the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia was obligated to stop performing abortions. The clinic’s Executive Director Katie Quiñonez told AP News patients were offered help booking out-of-state abortions and funding to cover the costs of travel. The clinic remains open and continues to provide annual exams, cancer screenings, and transgender-identity-affirming hormone therapy. 

Quiñonez will leave the health center to serve as the executive director of an abortion clinic opening in Cumberland, Maryland – near the West Virginia border – in June.

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