A New Abortion Provider Is Set To Open In Maryland This Year, Right Next To The Heavily Conservative State Of West Virginia
A new abortion provider is opening in Maryland, just across from the conservative state of West Virginia where lawmakers just passed a near-total abortion ban.
The Women’s Health Center of Maryland in Cumberland, about 5 miles from West Virginia will open in June. This is just one year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned federal abortion protections. It will provide abortions to patients across central Appalachia, a region that clinic operators say is an “abortion desert.”
“Hours in any direction, there are no other abortion providers here — it’s smack dab in the middle of an absolute abortion desert, and that’s by design,” said Katie Quiñonez. She is the executive director of the Charleston-based Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, the state’s lone abortion clinic until it was forced to stop the procedures after legislators in September passed a ban with few exemptions.
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The Cumberland clinic will be the only independent reproductive health care center in the area and the western-most provider of surgical and medical abortion and gender-affirming hormone therapy in Maryland. Quiñonez, who will also serve as the Maryland clinic’s executive director, said the facility will be a more accessible option for patients in northern West Virginia, western Maryland, south-central Pennsylvania, and Ohio, where an abortion ban is under injunction.
Independent abortion clinics provide most abortions in the U.S. — especially for people with low incomes who live in isolated, rural states hostile to abortion access. The clinics are more likely to offer abortion after the first trimester and to provide both surgical and medication abortion options, according to the Abortion Care Network, the national association for independent abortion care providers.
Dozens of independent clinics across the country have been forced to close their doors since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and in 14 states, there are no abortion clinics at all.
At least 66 clinics in 15 different states have stopped providing abortions since the decision, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The number of clinics providing abortions in those 15 states dropped from 79 to 13 by October 2022, with the remaining clinics in Georgia.
West Virginia lawmakers passed their near-total ban on abortion, and the Republican majority said they hoped it would force the Women’s Health Care Center of West Virginia to shut down. Republican Sen. Robert Karnes said he believed shuttering the center was “going to save a lot of babies.” Brandon Steele, a Republican in the state’s House of Delegates, called abortion access “a scar” and “a curse” lawmakers had to “remove from this land.”
West Virginia patients seeking an abortion will now have to take time off of work, travel hundreds of miles and pay for lodging and other accommodations, “all to get basic health care,” Quiñonez said.
“Our communities deserve better — people should be able to access abortion care without delay or barriers,” she said.
The Women’s Health Center of Maryland will provide abortion services into the second trimester and will accept Maryland Medicaid, which covers abortions. They will also offer annual exams, contraception, testing, and treatment for sexually-transmitted diseases, as well as breast and cervical cancer screenings.