About two months after the state attorney general publicly questioned methods used at abortion clinics, a state lawmaker has seemingly turned the tables and posed similar inquiries to "pregnancy crisis centers," which tend to oppose the practice.
Delegate Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson, sent letters to 37 crisis centers Friday. He said he wants to know what goes on at the centers and if they are misleading women about their services.
"I am deeply concerned that women may be deceived by a (center's) name, advertising and location into believing that it offers comprehensive reproductive care, including contraception and abortion, or at the very least, referrals for those services," Skinner wrote.
The centers tend to actively advocate against abortions, typically offering baby clothing, information about adoptions and other similar services.
Skinner said he supports anyone's right to advocate against abortion.
"They should be able to (advocate), but what they can't do is tell people that they're providing medical services when they're not," Skinner said.
Skinner said the information he receives could lead to legislative action.
The letters ask for detailed information about services. Questions include whether the centers have names that are similar to abortion providers, if the centers have policies "to ensure that answers are not deceptive or misleading," and what information centers provide women who ask about abortion services.
Skinner's letters are the latest in a public abortion debate that has grown more heated in recent weeks.
In June, Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey sent questionnaires to the state's two elective abortion clinics. The state Department of Health and Human Resources doesn't license or inspect abortion clinics; Morrisey said clinics' answers would help him evaluate whether more regulations are needed.
The clinics, both located in Charleston, responded to Morrisey with brief responses. Both said they understand and abide by the law.
Some of the questions posed in Skinner's letters to the Crisis Pregnancy Centers are nearly identical to those sent by Morrisey to the clinics that perform abortions.
The first question in both letters is identical: how often are the centers or abortion clinics "inspected by the State or a self-regulatory body?"
They both also ask about "compliance" plans at the respective centers.
"I have exactly the same legal authority to ask these questions as the attorney general," Skinner said.
The Jefferson County attorney said he's considered asking questions about the centers for some time.
"He's sending questions to centers who have licensed medical providers. They're licensed," Skinner said. "I'm sending letters to entities that I don't know if they have any license, or anyone whose actually been trained by medical personnel on giving services to women.
"I would like to know whether these centers are actually telling women all of their medical choices."
In his letter, Skinner specifically mentions a center in Charleston that recently moved in next door to one of the state's two abortion providers. The center is named Woman's Choice, and calls itself a pregnancy resource center. The clinic is named the Women's Health Center of West Virginia.
Matt Jacob, Woman's Choice spokesman, said the center is upfront with women - it tells them it doesn't offer abortions and it doesn't claim to offer medical services.
"It's not as if we try to trap women into thinking this is an abortion clinic," Jacobs said Monday in a phone interview.