In 2014, Tennessee voters acted to pass Amendment 1, which adds new language to the state constitution, beginning with “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion….” This November, four years after Tennessee voters had their chance, West Virginia voters will also vote on such a referendum with the same wording. The WV Senate passed the ballot measure last month, with the House of Delegates doing so on Monday, both by healthy majorities.
If such a referendum passes in the state, it will be particularly noteworthy, as West Virginia is one of 17 states where “medically necessary abortions” are funded by taxpayers, due to a 1993 court order. And the rate at which West Virginia taxpayers are funding these abortions is increasing. “Last year, West Virginia’s Medicaid program paid $326,103 for 1,560 abortions for poor women, state data show. That was about 340 more than the previous year,” according to the Associated Press.
Despite an increase, and despite Americans’ opposition to taxpayer funded abortions, some WV legislators are against the referendum. From the Associated Press:
“It is clearly taking a right away that is presumed to exist based upon current law in the state of West Virginia,” said Del. Tim Miley, a Bridgeport Democrat. Instead of amending the constitution, lawmakers should tighten the definition of medical necessity or investigate any reports of doctors improperly applying it, he said.
It is worth noting, however, that Planned Parenthood, which operates a facility in Vienna, West Virginia, regards all abortions as “medically necessary.” Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic lists the referendum under its “Anti-Reproductive Health & Rights Legislation” section and claims it is “[a] constitutional amendment to strip a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy from the West Virginia Constitution. This is the most extreme anti-abortion action our state can take.” Planned Parenthood’s facility is outnumbered 28 to 1 by Federally Qualified Health Centers in West Virginia.
“Abortion” is not mentioned in the state constitution, nor are the phrases “reproductive rights” or “terminate a pregnancy,” despite what Planned Parenthood — likely not the best resource for advice in the state — may believe.
Abortion advocates such as Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are clearly objecting to something that is a step in the right direction. West Virginians for Life told LifeNews.com in part:
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.
If West Virginia passes the amendment as Tennessee has (and other states hopefully may do someday), it will be a hopeful glimpse into what a post-Roe v. Wade country might look like.