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Morrisey's sudden concern with women's health seems suspect

Aug. 09, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

To Attorney General Morrisey, who is soliciting the public's comments regarding his investigation of women's healthcare in West Virginia, I say thanks for asking!

Mr. Morrisey claims that he is deeply concerned about women's health in West Virginia. As a woman who is also concerned about women's healthcare, the quality of and unfettered access to, I struggle to trust that Mr. Morrisey's deep concern will do anything to improve access to or quality of healthcare. In fact, I firmly believe Mr. Morrisey's true motivation is to deny the women of West Virginia healthcare access and options.

Mr. Morrisey justifies his investigation of women's healthcare claiming that women's health clinics are not regulated. As is the case with dentists' offices, doctors' offices, and plastic surgeons' offices, women's healthcare clinics are staffed by licensed doctors, nurses and mental health professionals. Licensed healthcare providers are accountable to a professional board that demands legal, procedural and ethical compliance with all board standards. It is common knowledge that women's healthcare clinics must maintain compliance with all health and safety codes just like any other outpatient care clinic.

Mr. Morrisey purports to care about women's health, but a review of his campaign website reveals not one mention of women's health as a priority in his campaign.

However, he does mention time and again his opposition to government overreach in the lives of citizens. Under the "Core Principles" found on Mr. Morrisey's webpage, he laments that "... every day it seems we hear more about government mandates and burdensome regulations..." Mr. Morrisey continues with, "I want to change that and will bring the full weight of the West Virginia Attorney General's office to advance the principles of limited government and freedom."

From the voter's perspective, it looks as if Mr. Morrisey, only seven months into his term, has abandoned his core principles and is willing to use his position in state government to create mandates and burdensome regulations that undermine women's choices and access to healthcare. This leaves voters to conclude that either Mr. Morrisey is insincere in his widely proclaimed opposition to big government or he simply does not regard women as citizens with rights to privacy, self-determination and freedom from government intervention in their personal lives.

In the 30-plus years the women's healthcare clinics have operated in West Virginia, the Department of Health and Human Services has not received one complaint against these facilities, but recently a malpractice lawsuit has been filed against one of the clinics operating in West Virginia. Mr. Morrisey has cited this malpractice lawsuit as the catalyst for his investigation.

According to the WV State of Malpractice Report dated 2011, approximately 269 malpractice lawsuits are filed annually in West Virginia, and 31 percent of those suits are dismissed. Will Mr. Morrisey's office now initiate investigations of all malpractice suits -- or just those that provide him with a politically expedient opportunity? Given the frequency of malpractice suits and that one third of them are dismissed, it is premature to launch into a timely, costly investigation before the facts of the case are heard and a decision is rendered.

Moreover, it seems completely unproductive to initiate an investigation in the midst of this lawsuit. The accuracy and objectivity of the investigation require that information be obtained from the health clinic, but because of the pending lawsuit, the clinic cannot provide the information Mr. Morrisey's office has requested.

What are voters to make of this? All that is left to conclude is that Mr. Morrisey is less concerned with accuracy and objectivity than he is with portraying the clinic as non-compliant with his so-called investigation. One might also conclude that Mr. Morrisey is playing political games, paying off his political debts, on the people's time, using the people's resources.

Mr. Morrisey, I hold a master's degree. I have a successful career. I served honorably in the military. My marriage and family life are fulfilling and happy. Like the vast majority of women in West Virginia, I contribute in many ways to life in the Mountain State, and I have proven myself a productive, responsible citizen capable of making important decisions. I do not require, nor do I desire the West Virginia attorney general's assistance in navigating the intimate matter of my reproductive healthcare. If there were solid evidence to substantiate your concerns, and if your motives were not so transparently political, I might see this investigation differently. But, it is obvious that your concerns about women's health are nothing more than a veiled attempt to relegate (and regulate) the women of West Virginia to an inferior, dependent position.

That is simply not going to happen, Mr. Morrisey, not here in West Virginia. The women and men of this state will not allow you (and the special interest groups who finance you) to take us backward. We simply will not allow it.

Kimberly White is a licensed social worker and a resident of Barboursville.

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