UPDATE: (6:21 P.M. June 24, 2022): With Roe v. Wade overturned, the question as to where West Virginia’s state-level abortion law stands is still unclear.
West Virginia has recent laws, banning abortion past 20 weeks and if the child will be born with a disability. But there is a law on the books that’s even older than the state that calls abortion a felony offense. That law was a 1848 holdover law from Virginia.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey tells WOWK 13 News that his office does not know yet if that 174-year-old law would be in effect now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned. Morrisey says his team will meet with other political leaders next week to decide on a legal strategy moving forward.
CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, stating that the U.S. Constitution does not provide a right to abortion. The decision eliminates the nearly 50-year-old ruling that the Constitution did provide that right and returns the right to limit or ban abortions to state governments.
While some are praising the Court’s decision, others are sharing their anger and grief over the ruling. In the Charleston, the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia says there will be a rally tonight, Thursday, June 24, 2022, at 8:30 p.m. in front of the Robert C. Byrd US Court House in protest of the decision.
Over the past several months, and even years, several states have passed “trigger laws” that completely or partially ban abortions. This means that the laws were passed so that should the case be overturned, as it just was, those laws would either go into effect immediately, after a certain amount of time, or after the details of the law are sorted out.
In other states, such as West Virginia, abortion was already illegal at the time Roe v. Wade’s ruling went into effect, creating a federal level of protection for the right to get an abortion. In the Mountain State, that law was never removed from the state code, and with Roe v. Wade now overturned, abortion could again become classified as a felony offense in the state. However, newer laws still make it unclear if that will be the case.
As of now, the state’s oldest law on abortion in the WV State Code (F) reads:
Any person who shall administer to, or cause to be taken by, a woman, any drug or other thing, or use any means, with intent to destroy her unborn child, or to produce abortion or miscarriage, and shall thereby destroy such child, or produce such abortion or miscarriage, shall be guilty of a felony, and, upon conviction, shall be confined in the penitentiary not less than three nor more than ten years; and if such woman die by reason of such abortion performed upon her, such person shall be guilty of murder. No person, by reason of any act mentioned in this section, shall be punishable where such act is done in good faith, with the intention of saving the life of such woman or child.West Virginia State Code §61-2-8
In more recent years, West Virginia has passed legislation that only bans abortion after 20 weeks, and in March, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed a law banning people from seeking abortion care because they believe their child will be born with a disability.
Due to the multiple laws on the books for abortion in the state, the governor says he “will not hesitate to call a special session to clarify the state’s laws if needed.
Justice has already released a statement on the Supreme Court’s decision.
“I applaud the Supreme Court’s courageous decision today. I’ve said many times that I very proudly stand for life and I am rock-solid against abortion, and I believe that every human life is a miracle worth protecting. I will not hesitate to call a special session after consulting with the Legislature and my legal team if clarification in our laws needs to be made.”WV Gov. Jim Justice
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey also says he stands by the Supreme Court’s decision and plans to provide legal opinion to the Legislature on the state’s abortion law moving forward from the new Supreme Court ruling.
“This historic decision is long past due, although it took nearly 50 years to overturn several flawed Supreme Court decisions that have led to the tragic deaths of more than 60 million unborn children,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “I am proud to stand with those who agree that the law must afford the unborn the same rights as everyone, most especially the inviolable right to life. Our Constitution should never have been interpreted in a way that lets it override the states’ compelling interest to protect innocent life.”WV Attorney General Patrick Morrisey
“In the next few days, I will be providing a legal opinion to the Legislature about how it should proceed to save as many babies’ lives as humanly and legally possible,” Attorney General Morrisey added.
US Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) also released a statement on the decision saying:
“By overturning Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court has returned this issue to the states to make their own determination. I support this decision, and I would expect West Virginia to support this decision as well. This ruling does not create a federal ban on abortion, as has been suggested by some of my colleagues. Many feel strongly on this issue, but I condemn violent rhetoric and threats towards the Supreme Court Justices. I will continue to oppose extreme legislation at the federal level, and will follow debates in state legislatures, including in West Virginia, on this issue.”US Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)
Not everyone shares the same opinion as Morrisey, Capito and Justice, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) expressed his disappointment with the decision. Manchin shared a statement on his social media that reads:
“I am deeply disappointed that the Supreme Court has voted to overturn Roe v. Wade. It has been the law of the land for nearly 50 years and was understood to be settled precedent. I trusted Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh when they testified under oath that they also believed Roe v. Wade was settled legal precedent and I am alarmed they chose to reject the stability the ruling has provided for two generations of Americans.
“As a Catholic, I was raised pro-life and will always consider myself pro-life. But I have come to accept that my definition of pro-life may not be someone else’s definition of pro-life. I believe that exceptions should be made in instances of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is in jeopardy. But let me be clear, I support legislation that would codify the rights Roe v. Wade previously protected. I am hopeful Democrats and Republicans will come together to put forward a piece of legislation that would do just that.”U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV)