W.Va. AG: Abortion rights groups have a right to express their opinions at rally

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Aug 21, 2013

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) -- West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is questioning the policies and practices of the state's abortion clinics, said he encouraged abortion rights groups to express their opinions at a rally Tuesday.

WV FREE, the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia, Planned Parenthood Health Systems, West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, WV Nurses and Fairness WV hosted the rally held at the Capitol.

The groups take issue with calls -- by Morrisey and other Republicans -- for the state to regulate abortion procedures.

Morrisey's office has sent letters to the state clinics that provide elective abortions, and is in the process of assessing abortion regulation.

The moves are in response to a lawsuit filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court in June.

So far, the clinics have refused to respond to the attorney general's questionnaire.

In West Virginia, abortion clinics have little to no regulations. In fact, the state is one of 11 that don't require a licensed doctor to perform the procedure.

"The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, which is why I encourage the free flow of ideas on any topic," Morrisey said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. "The people gathered at the Capitol today have the right to express their opinions, and I would not discourage them from doing so.

"Our review is focusing on the laws governing abortion regulation in the state of West Virginia."

For example, he noted, under the law it is indisputable that abortion is permitted until birth in the state. "That's up until birth, not until 20 or 30 weeks," he said.

"What are the regulatory standards in West Virginia for governing abortions, which are legal in the state until birth? Our review is analyzing this question and many others that have been raised by people across the political spectrum," Morrisey continued.

"After our review concludes, we will be in a position to identify the exact nature of abortion laws and regulations in West Virginia."

The attorney general noted that a bipartisan group of state lawmakers also have asked for a review of abortion rules in the state in House Concurrent Resolution 167, which passed by a voice vote and was forwarded to the Senate in April.

The resolution requested the Joint Committee on Health to authorize a study regarding the health and safety regulations of the state's abortion providers.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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