West Virginia Legislature Passes Bill Confirming There’s No Constitutional Right to Abortion

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Mar 5, 2018   |   5:31PM   |   Charleston, West Virginia

West Virginians will have the chance to vote on a constitutional amendment that makes it clear that their state does not recognize abortion as a “right.”

On Monday, the state House of Delegates passed the proposed constitutional amendment in a 72-25 vote, WVVA News reports. The ballot measure, which does not require the governor’s approval, passed the state Senate in February.

West Virginia Senate Joint Resolution 12 will be on the ballot in November. If approved by voters, the following would be added to the state Constitution: “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.”

The amendment would make it easier for the state to pass pro-life laws, including a restriction on taxpayer funding for abortions. West Virginia is one of 17 states that funds elective abortions for low-income women through Medicaid.

Pro-life advocates 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,” said state Sen. Robert Karnes, previously. “This will make it absolutely clear that it’s constitutional for those things to pass.”

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 Virginians for Life said in a statement to LifeNews:

On March 5, the WV House passed SJR 12 by a greater than two-thirds margin (73-26) making it Amendment 1 on the November 6 ballot. Amendment 1 will return the state Constitution to a neutral position on abortion and abortion funding, thereby taking the control of abortion funding from the court system and putting it in the hands of the people’s elected representatives where it belongs.

The state Constitution, in 1993, was wrongly changed by the Panepinto Decision, which required state taxpayers to pay for women’s elective abortions in West Virginia. Amendment 1 simply eliminates the influence of the Panepinto Decision so the restriction on funding of abortion is reinstated in the form it was in 1993, unless the WV Legislature passes an updated law.

Under Amendment 1, a woman’s right to abortion will not be affected in any way.

“If this amendment is ratified by the voters in November, women will still have access to abortion under the Federal Constitution. The Supreme Court in 1973 ruled that the Federal Constitution contains the right to abortion. States cannot over-ride that ruling with their own Constitutional Amendments,” said Dr. Wanda Franz, WVFL president.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that abortion is a right under the U.S. Constitution. In Harris vs. McRae, the Supreme Court ruled that the abortion right does not provide for a government entitlement, that is, the WV Legislature is free to prohibit abortion funding.

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“West Virginia is one of only 17 states that funds abortion on demand. If Amendment 1 is ratified by the voters in November, then West Virginia will join 33 other states and the federal government in limiting taxpayer funding of abortion,” said WVFL Legislative Liaison Karen Cross. “We know that limiting abortion funding saves lives. In fact, 2 million people are alive today because of the federal Hyde Amendment.”

Over the years the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) reports that West Virginia taxpayers have spent nearly $10,000,000 on approximately 35,000 abortions. Most of those were elective abortions for any reason.

“If Panepinto is reversed, the law on which it was based would be reinstated. The 1993 law allowed for taxpayer funding of abortion to save the life of the mother, in cases of rape and incest, for fetal anomaly and medical emergency,” Franz added.

Polls consistently show that most Americans do not want their tax dollars to pay for abortions. A Marist poll found that more than two-thirds of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortions, including a majority of women and people who identify as pro-choice.

In October 2016, a Politico/Harvard University poll also found that just 36 percent of likely voters supported taxpayer funding for abortions, while 58 percent opposed it.