West Virginia clinic, doctor sue over state's new abortion ban

By Brendan Pierson

(Reuters) - West Virginia's only abortion clinic and the clinic's primary doctor on Wednesday filed a lawsuit challenging the near-total abortion ban passed by the state last year, saying it violates patients' constitutional rights.

In their complaint in the Charleston, West Virginia federal court, Women's Health Center of West Virginia and the doctor, identified as John Doe, are asking the court for an immediate order blocking enforcement of the law while the case goes forward.

It names officials of the West Virginia Board of Medicine, which oversees the practice of medicine in the state and is tasked with enforcing the law, as defendants.

"We are ready to defend West Virginia's abortion law to the fullest," West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican, said in a statement.

West Virginia passed a near-total abortion ban in September, with exceptions only for medical emergencies, rape or incest. Doctors who violate it are subject to discipline or loss of their licenses, though not criminal penalties.

West Virginia is one of more than a dozen Republican-led states that have moved to restrict abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court last June overturned its landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, which had established a nationwide right to abortion in 1973.

The West Virginia law requires that any abortions allowed under one of its exceptions must be provided by a doctor with rights to admit a patient to a hospital. If the abortion is surgical, as opposed to one done by medication, it must also be performed in a hospital.

Wednesday's lawsuit argues that these restrictions violate the clinic's and patients' right to due process under the U.S. Constitution by imposing "irrational" barriers to medical treatment. It said there is no medical basis for imposing restrictions on abortion when there are no such restrictions on other, riskier procedures.

The lawsuit states that, under the law's own language, if any provision is unconstitutional, the entire law must be struck down.

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Bradley Perrett)