Emily Rice Published

Advocates Act To Cover ‘Abortion Desert’ In W.Va.

A doctors office waiting room with empty green and red chairs.
The waiting room of the Women's Health Center of West Virginia in Charleston, W.Va. sits empty on Wednesday, June 29, 2022. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, the clinic had to suspend abortion services because of an 1800s-era abortion ban in West Virginia state code.
AP Photo/Leah Willingham

The Women’s Health Center of Maryland in Cumberland will open its doors in June to provide abortion services to patients across central Appalachia.

Katie Quiñonez is the executive director of the Charleston-based Women’s Health Center of West Virginia. She will serve as executive director of the new Maryland clinic. West Virginia is part of what some call an “abortion desert.”

“There’s not another abortion clinic nearly 100 miles or more in any direction. That to me is an abortion desert,” Quiñonez said. “You know, the majority of the counties in the United States do not have an abortion provider located within those communities. Abortion should be accessible, people should be able to get the reproductive health care that they need without delay, without any barriers. Now, that’s not the reality that we’re living in.”

Until the Maryland clinic opens and can take referrals, Quiñonez and her staff have no other option but to send callers to a website to find out-of-state services. Even when the clinic opens, Cumberland is a more than three hour drive from Charleston. 

The Women’s Health Center of West Virginia continues to provide reproductive health care services, like cancer screenings, contraception and HIV and STI testing among other services.

“While we absolutely wish that we could be providing abortion care in West Virginia, we know that opening a clinic in western Maryland where right now there is a lack of access to reproductive health care specifically that this is going to be a big game changer and it’s really important to the community,” Quiñonez said. 

The Women’s Health Center of Maryland will provide abortion services into the second trimester, annual exams, contraception, testing and treatment for sexually-transmitted diseases, and breast and cervical cancer screenings.

“While Women’s Health Center in Maryland will not be open to provide abortion care until June of 2023, we know that many more people are going to need abortion care in the meantime because people have always needed abortion since the beginning of time when people will always need abortions until the end of time,” Quiñonez said.