CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In an apparent response to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's ongoing inquiry into abortion regulation, a Jefferson County lawmaker has started a separate review into "crisis pregnancy centers" that counsel pregnant women against having an abortion.
Delegate Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson, has sent letters to 37 such facilities across the state, asking about their personnel, policies and practices.
Skinner said the crisis pregnancy centers give the appearance that they offer comprehensive medical and reproductive health care, but typically don't have licensed medical professionals on staff. Pro-life Christian groups typically run the facilities.
"This is about protecting the health of women," Skinner said. "A woman who is seeking medical assistance may be deceived by these centers' names, advertising and locations into believing she will receive comprehensive reproductive care."
One such clinic -- Woman's Choice Pregnancy Resource Center -- recently relocated to a building on Charleston's West Side beside Women's Health Center of West Virginia, one of two stand-alone abortion clinics in West Virginia.
"These crisis pregnancy centers are not licensed or regulated by the state, and there just isn't much factual information out there about them," Skinner said. "I believe it is imperative to obtain specifics about the practices and procedures of these centers."
Earlier this year, Morrisey, a Republican who opposes abortion, started a review of abortion regulation in West Virginia after a Charleston woman filed a lawsuit against Women's Health Center and its doctor, alleging he botched her abortion. The Family Policy Council of West Virginia, a Christian evangelical group, is representing the woman.
Amid his review, Morrisey directed Women's Health Center and a Kanawha City abortion clinic to answer 17 questions about medical procedures and personnel. The clinics responded with letters, but didn't answer Morrisey's specific questions.
Skinner, meanwhile, asked the crisis pregnancy centers 40 questions in letters he sent out last week.
Among the questions:
• Does the center have licensed medical staff?
• Does the center provide ultrasounds?
• What kind of information does the clinic provide on birth control, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion?
• Does the center have a plan to ensure it's providing medically accurate information?
In his letter, Skinner said a woman's health may be put in danger if she believes she will receive medical care -- or believes she's talked to a medical professional -- when visiting a crisis pregnancy center. Such facilities have been accused of spreading false medical information about abortion health risks in some states.