West Virginia abortion providers and advocates filed a lawsuit Wednesday in federal court challenging multiple provisions of HB 302, the state’s near-total abortion ban passed in 2022.
Plaintiffs in the case are asking for an injunction blocking the entire ban while providers make their case in court. The suit says the ban is both irrational and unconstitutional.
One complaint is that HB 302 was passed through the West Virginia Legislature in less than 24 hours, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey issued a statement almost immediately after the filing.
“We are ready to defend West Virginia’s abortion law to the fullest. This law reflects the will of the majority of the citizens of the state as relayed by their elected representatives in the State Legislature,” he said. “I will stand strong for the life of the unborn and will not relent in our defense of this clearly constitutional law.”
On Sept. 13, 2022, the West Virginia Legislature reconvened in a special session and passed House Bill 302, outlawing abortion in West Virginia, with limited exceptions. In instances of legal abortion, the procedure is limited to M.D.s and Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine.
West Virginia had a law on the books banning abortion since before it became a state. The original code was enacted in 1849. The state’s lone abortion clinic, the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, joined a group of reproductive rights activists in quickly filing suit to have that 19th century law enjoined.
Now, plaintiffs in the case, Women’s Health Center of West Virginia and a local abortion provider, are asking the U.S. district court to issue an injunction blocking the entire ban pending a hearing.
Under HB 302, if any portion of the law is determined to be unconstitutional, the entire law must be struck down.
The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of West Virginia, Mountain State Justice, and the Cooley law firm filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia on behalf of Women’s Health Center of West Virginia.