CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey wants two Charleston clinics that perform abortions to tell him more about their policies and practices.
Morrisey asked the two clinics questions about their understanding of laws pertaining to abortions, internal policies and more in letters sent to them Monday, according to a press release.
"As West Virginia's chief legal officer, the Attorney General is charged with overseeing State legal policy and protecting the public interest," the release states.
"The answers the clinics provide will help the Attorney General and his staff -- who serve as counsel to the State's existing licensing and regulatory boards -- better evaluate the need for regulation."
Citing a recent lawsuit filed in the state, the conviction of a doctor who provided abortions in Pennsylvania and a Daily Mail story, Morrisey said there are "significant questions" about the regulation of abortion clinics in West Virginia.
"The State regulates doctors, nurses, dentists, accountants, architects, chiropractors, social workers, real estate appraisers, massage therapists, acupuncturists, barbers, and cosmetologists. But abortion clinics in West Virginia are neither licensed nor regulated by the State," Morrisey said in the press release.
"Regardless of one's position on abortion, the State needs to evaluate this basic fact."
No state agency licenses or regulates abortion clinics in West Virginia, state Department of Health and Human Resources spokeswoman Marsha Dadisman told the Daily Mail earlier this month. Morrisey cited the article as one reason for raising questions about regulation of local facilities.
Dadisman also said the DHHR licenses hospitals and "extended care units operated in connection with a hospital" but does not license many doctors' or dentists' clinics.
The state Board of Medicine regulates any doctors who are licensed at the two clinics in question, including the one accused of wrongdoing in the civil lawsuit mentioned by Morrisey.
Through a spokesperson, Morrisey declined to expand on his comments in the press release.
The murder conviction of Dr. Kermit Gosnell in the death of three babies at his Philadelphia abortion clinic has fueled a national debate. Morrisey said questions about the regulation or inspection of abortion clinics are particularly important in light of the conviction.
There were no routine inspections of abortion clinics by state officials for 15 years in Pennsylvania, according to The Associated Press. Officials discovered illegal acts at Gosnell's clinic after it was raided on drug trafficking suspicions.
Jeremiah Dys, president and general counsel of the Family Policy Council of West Virginia, an anti-abortion religious organization, called for greater regulation last week in announcing a lawsuit against one of the two Charleston clinics.
Dys and the Alliance Defending Freedom, another conservative Christian group, are representing Itai Gravely in her lawsuit against Dr. Rodney Lee Stephens and the Women's Health Center.
Gravely, 26, alleges Stephens continued with an abortion after she told him to stop due to excessive pain. The lawsuit also said Stephens left parts of the fetus in her uterus.
Morrisey said the merits of the lawsuit must be decided in court, but it raises questions about inspections of abortion clinics. Dys and the Alliance Defending Freedom praised Morrisey for his actions.
The state has two facilities that offer elective abortions, and both are in Charleston. The Women's Health Center is on the West Side and Kanawha SurgiCenter is in Kanawha City.