West Virginians are one step closer to adopting a constitutional amendment that makes it clear that their state does not recognize abortion as a “right.”
The state Senate gave its initial approval to state Senate Joint Resolution 12 on Thursday, and a final vote is expected Friday, according to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. Abortion activists protested during the vote, some wearing red and white “handmaiden” robes.
To amend the constitution, the measure must pass the West Virginia Senate and House by two-thirds majorities and then a voter referendum.
Metro News reports a Senate committee amended the resolution, taking out part of the language. The resolution to be added to the state constitution would say, “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.”
Another amendment that pro-life groups opposed failed to pass, the AP reports. West Virginians for Life said the “pro-abortion amendment … would have codified abortion in our state constitution.”
“SJR 12 is intended to make our constitution abortion neutral AND to disallow state funding. The bad amendment failed 22-7,” the pro-life group wrote online Thursday.
Here’s more from Metro News:
Senator Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, moved during Thursday’s floor session to amend back in language dealing with instances of rape, incest or protecting the life of the mother. His amendment wound up being defeated with 7 senators voting for it, 22 against and five absent.
“I think this is the first time the Constitution would be used to restrict rights in the state,” Palumbo said to his fellow senators.
Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump, R-Morgan, argued against Palumbo’s amendment, saying the resolution is meant to assure legislative say-so on abortion policy in West Virginia.
He said state code already reflects concerns about rape, incest or the life of the mother. Trump said keeping those instances in the state constitution would go against the intent of the resolution.
“Is there a constitution in any other state that expressly guarantees the right to abortion?” Trump asked.
State Sen. Robert Karnes, a pro-life Republican, told the West Virginia Metro News that they modeled the resolution after a Tennessee amendment that passed a voter referendum in 2014.
“There’s been no successful challenges whatsoever to the notion that it is the Legislature’s prerogative in the state of Tennessee to control abortion to whatever degree the Legislature wants to — under, obviously, the federal judicial umbrella that has made significant decisions related to abortion,” Karnes said. “So what this would do for West Virginia would be much the same.”
The Tennessee amendment, which withstood a legal challenge by Planned Parenthood, allows state leaders to regulate abortion and protect unborn babies in certain circumstances. It was made necessary by a radical pro-abortion decision by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2000 that wrongly declared a so-called “fundamental right to abortion” in the Tennessee Constitution, thereby making enforcement of common-sense protections impossible in Tennessee.
In West Virginia, Karnes said they hope the amendment will help reverse a 1993 state Supreme Court decision forcing taxpayers to pay for elective abortions.
“This would allow the Legislature to essentially override that decision without any ambiguity,” Karnes said. “This will make it absolutely clear that it’s constitutional for those things to pass.”
West Virginia is one of 17 states that forces taxpayers to fund elective abortions through Medicaid.
Since 1977, state taxpayers have been forced to pay millions of dollars for tens of thousands unborn babies’ abortion deaths, according to West Virginians for Life. In 2017 alone, state taxpayers paid for 1,560 unborn babies to be aborted through Medicaid, according to state health data.
West Virginia lawmakers also are considering a bill to prohibit taxpayer funding of abortions in the state.