West Virginia judge blocks pre-Roe v. Wade abortion ban

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July 18 (Reuters) - A West Virginia judge on Monday blocked officials from enforcing a 19th-century ban on abortions after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognized the right of women nationally to terminate pregnancies.

The decision by Kanawha County Circuit Judge Tera Salango clears the way for the state's lone abortion clinic to resume services, which it suspended out of fear of prosecution following the U.S. Supreme Court's June 24 ruling.

Republican West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's office argued that the 1800s-era law could take effect once again, making it a felony to perform or have an abortion, with exceptions only to protect a pregnant woman's life.

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But Salango agreed with the clinic, Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, that the law was effectively repealed by more modern, post-Roe statutes that "hopelessly conflict" with the old one allowing for abortion up to the 20th week of pregnancy.

She called it unfair to allow the state to maintain conflicting laws on its books and that the clinic and its patients were suffering as a result.

"It simply does not matter if you are pro-choice or pro-life," she said. "Every citizen in this state has a right to clearly know the laws under which they are expected to live."

Morrisey in a statement said he would appeal the preliminary injunction to the state's highest court, saying "current law on the books calls for the protection of life."

The case is one of several that abortion rights groups and clinics have filed nationally seeking to halt or stall bans and restrictions from taking effect in mostly Republican-led states following the Supreme Court's decision.

The ruling came hours after a Louisiana judge extended a temporary block on that state from enforcing a so-called "trigger" law ban designed to snap into effect if the high court overturned Roe.

Twelve other states have similar trigger laws. About half of the states have or are expected to seek to ban or curtail abortions following that ruling.

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Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis

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Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at nate.raymond@thomsonreuters.com.