CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Recently, the emergency pro-choice alarm went off in the state capitol offices of Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. There was news of a malpractice suit against a local abortion clinic and its doctor.
Thus on full alert, he wrote to the clinic, and to a similar clinic not involved in the suit, with a list of questions that evoke images of Morrisey as a man on whose list of priorities a dot of protoplasm that is seen only with a microscope ranks well ahead of doctor-patient privacy rights, women's health, unwanted children, the difficulties of single-parent homes and the state's teen pregnancy rate.
Morrisey's quest for answers to 17 varieties of information is entirely reasonable, provided one defines reasonable as equivalent to self-serving grandiosity. He questioned the clinics about their informed consent policies, the fetal age at which the two facilities refuse to perform abortions, and more.
I have no personal quarrel with our attorney general. I take him to be the sort who considers himself to be quick of mind, and adept at both asking and answering questions. The latter assumption prompted my staff to compile the following list of eight questions to which we anticipate thoughtful responses from the AG:
• Given that no hospital or clinic escapes the clutches of the malpractice lawyers, we wish to learn whether Mr. Morrisey has asked the same questions of any West Virginia hospital CEO who contributed to the Morrisey campaign.
• My research team also asks whether, as the state's leading law enforcer and a true conservative, Mr. Morrisey is comfortable in the knowledge that his letters, and their attendant publicity, likely have fueled the state's reputation as Tort Hell.
• Next, should we interpret Mr. Morrisey's heavy-footed slog into the abortion clinics to mean that the state's medical licensing board has failed to oversee the physician in question?
• As a lawyer, why is the attorney general not content to wait until the malpractice suit plays out before authoring letters that, by rational interpretation, are accusatory in nature?
• Attorney General Morrisey has claimed that criticisms of his letters by organizations such as the ACLU and West Virginia Free are nothing but efforts to raise cash. Thus, we ask whether Mr. Morrisey is troubled by a creeping awareness that his letters have aided those organizations, whom he evidently abhors, in their fundraising campaigns.
• Mr. Morrisey has vowed that anyone unhappy with his assault-style questions and who files a frivolous ethics complaint against him (see the previous question) will be required to pay his office's legal defense fees. In the interest of fair play, we inquire whether Mr. Morrisey will agree to pay, out of his own pocket, the expenses of a complainant, should he be found guilty of an ethical violation?
• His letters to the abortion clinics demand descriptions of their policies in the event a patient may wish to revoke consent at any point in the procedure. In a similar vein, it is important to know whether he has written to the state's colonoscopy clinics with such an inquiry. The older I get, the more important is the matter.
• Last, the citizens ask whether Mr. Morrissey has plans, a la the late Alabama Gov. George Wallace, to create a made-for-TV event in which he personally will stand in the clinic door to prevent a frightened 16-year-old from obtaining an abortion.
Our list of questions for the attorney general thus ends, and our wait for his responses begins.
Wyatt is a Gazette contributing columnist and a professor at Marshall University.