Reproductive rights supporters in West Virginia want to send their attorney general a message: Back off of abortion clinics. They say that AG Patrick Morrisey (R) is launching a politically-motivated attack on women’s access to health care — following in the footsteps of a neighboring anti-choice attorney general, Virginia’s Ken Cuccinelli.
Morrisey recently launched an investigation into the state’s abortion clinics to make sure they’re adhering to existing regulations. He also opened a public comment period to give West Virginia residents an opportunity to weigh in about whether they think those clinic regulations need to be tightened. Anti-choice groups in the state are already mobilizing to try to submit as many comments as possible in opposition to legal abortion providers. Reproductive rights advocates told RH Reality Check earlier this month that the attorney general is essentially “doing the bidding” of anti-choice groups.
In response, women’s health supporters have rallied against Morrisey over the past several weeks. Reproductive justice organization WV Free is encouraging its own supporters to submit comments about how safe abortion already is. A coalition of women’s health organizations penned an op-ed in the West Virginia Gazette, pointing out that “there is simply no medical or safety-related justification for a targeted inquiry into abortion care providers in West Virginia” and it’s “baseless and misleading” for a government official to suggest that abortion care is unregulated. A Democratic lawmaker in the state proposed a similar investigation into right-wing “crisis pregnancy centers,” which have been well-documented sources of misinformation about reproductive health. And on Tuesday, the pro-choice community protested at the Capitol Rotunda.
“We’re concerned that he’s engaging in a misinformation campaign,” Margaret Chapman-Pomponio, the executive director of WV Free, said at Tuesday’s rally in reference to Morrisey. “The fear is women’s health providers are regulated like any other health care providers in the state of West Virginia.”
Women’s health advocates say that Morrisey is overstepping his role as a government official to pry into medical procedures that aren’t under his jurisdiction. But he’s hardly the first to do so. Virginia’s health board recently enacted stringent abortion regulations that are already forcing some clinics to close; Ohio worked hard to stack its health board with anti-abortion activists before approving sweeping new abortion restrictions this year; Iowa’s health board is currently considering eliminating abortion access for the rural women in the state; and Georgia’s health board is working on enacting abortion restrictions that the legislature wasn’t able to pass this session.
Morrisey may want to take a cue from other Republican lawmakers who have recently attempted to conduct investigations into abortion clinics. Back in May, House Republicans launched a nationwide probe into the abortion clinics in all 50 states — but they’re not exactly getting the results they hoped. The investigation is turning up evidence that abortion clinics are already well-regulated and extremely safe.