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After judge’s order, West Virginia’s only abortion clinic resuming care

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s only abortion clinic has resumed scheduling patients for abortions following a Monday ruling from a Charleston judge blocking enforcement of the state’s 150-year-old abortion ban.

Communications Director Kaylen Barker said Tuesday that the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia is scheduling abortion patients for as early as next week.

“We’re determined to continue doing so for as long as we’re able,” the clinic’s executive director Katie Quiñonez said in a statement. She called Monday’s decision “a sigh of relief.”

“The impacts of abortion being pushed out of reach for the last month have been devastating,” she said. “Make no mistake: Essential health care shouldn’t depend on the whims of a court or politicians, it should be based on compassion and what’s best for one’s life and future. We won’t stop fighting for the ability to serve our patients with the care they need — not now, and not ever.”

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West Virginia has a state law on the books dating back to the 1800s making performing or obtaining an abortion a felony, punishable by up to a decade in prison. It provides an exception for cases in which a pregnant person’s life is at risk.

The Women’s Health Center of West Virginia had suspended abortion services June 24, the day the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Staffers canceled dozens of abortion appointments, fearing they or their patients could be prosecuted under the old statute.

During Monday’s court hearing, lawyers for the Women’s Health Center argued that the old law is void because it has not been enforced in more than 50 years and has been superseded by a slew of modern laws regulating abortion that acknowledge West Virginian’s right to the procedure. One example is West Virginia’s 2015 law, which allows abortions until 20 weeks.

Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Tera L. Salango agreed, granting a preliminary injunction against the ban. The judge said the recent laws enacted by the state legislature “hopelessly conflict with the criminal abortion ban” and that it would be “inequitable” to allow conflicting laws to remain on the books.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey decried the ruling, calling it “a dark day for West Virginia.” He said his office will appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.