CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A women's health advocate ripped West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's pending review of state abortion regulations Monday, saying his actions were a veiled attempt to shut down abortion clinics.
"It's a political attack thinly disguised as having an interest in women's health," said Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of West Virginia Free. "If he's about women's health he should support access to care instead of trying to take it away."
Morrisey announced Monday that he's evaluating whether abortion clinics in West Virginia should be regulated.
Morrisey's review follows a lawsuit last week filed by a Charleston woman, who alleges a doctor at the Women's Health Center of West Virginia botched her abortion. The Family Policy Council of West Virginia, a Christian evangelical group that's representing the 26-year-old woman, wants the state to start strictly regulating West Virginia's two stand-alone abortion clinics.
"The merits of that lawsuit must still be resolved in court, but it does raise serious questions about how such clinics in West Virginia are inspected and reviewed to ensure patients are safe," Morrisey said in a prepared statement.
On Monday, Morrisey's office sent letters to the two abortion clinics, asking for specifics about procedures performed at the health centers and how often they receive inspections.
Morrisey said the state regulates numerous health professionals, including massage therapists, chiropractors and acupuncturists.
"But abortion clinics are neither licensed nor regulated by the state," he said. "Regardless of one's position on abortion, the state needs to evaluate this basic fact."
On his campaign website last year, Morrisey said he is anti-abortion and "and will fight to protect the unborn."
Chapman Pomponio said the timing of Morrisey's review -- a week after the Family Policy Council's news conference and lawsuit -- wasn't a coincidence.
"It would seem that the attorney general of the state of West Virginia is doing the bidding of a right-wing fundamentalist organization," she said. "We knew Morrisey was going to attack abortion providers. It was just a matter of when."
Last week, Jeremiah Dys, president of the Family Policy Council, held a press conference on Charleston's West Side, just across the street from the Women's Health Center of West Virginia. Dys announced that he was representing Itai Gravely, who's suing Dr. Rodney Lee Stephens, who performs abortions at the health center.
In the lawsuit, Gravely alleges she changed her mind about having the abortion but was restrained and forced to go through with the procedure. Doctors at CAMC Women's and Children's Hospital later discovered the head of the aborted fetus in her uterus, according to the lawsuit.
At the news conference, Dys urged state lawmakers to pass laws that would require abortion clinics to be licensed, regulated and inspected.
On Monday, Dys praised Morrisey for looking into abortion regulation in West Virginia.
"We commend the attorney general for being more concerned about the safety of women than the bottom line of abortionists," Dys said. "What Dr. Stephens and Women's Health Center did to Itai Gravely cannot be swept under the rug. They exposed her to extraordinary cruelty and put her life in danger. We urge the governor to take immediate action to implement sensible abortion facility regulations in West Virginia."
Stephens and Women's Health Center have not responded to requests for comment.
West Virginia's Office of Health Facilities Licensure and Certification licenses and inspects hospitals, nursing homes and surgical centers, according to the agency's website. But West Virginia's two stand-alone abortion clinics -- the Women's Health Center and Surgicenter in Kanawha City -- aren't listed among the facilities that the agency regulates.