West Virginia resolution declaring 'no Constitutional right to abortion' heads to November ballot

(Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)Protesters demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The West Virginia legislature has approved a resolution that aims to amend the state's Constitution to say that it does not recognize abortion as a "right."

Senate Joint Resolution 12, which was approved by the Senate in February, was passed by the state House of Delegates by a 73–25 vote on Monday. The measure, which does not require the approval of the governor, will be on the ballot in November.

"Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion," the proposed Constitutional amendment states.

The resolution gained the support of several Democratic senators, including Brent Boggs (D-Braxton), Andrew Byrd (D-Kanawha), Kenneth Hicks (D-Wayne), Shirley Love (D-Fayette), Chad Lovejoy (D-Cabell), Dana Lynch (D-Webster), Ricky Moore (D-Raleigh), Ralph Rodighiero (D-Logan), and Robert Thompson (D-Wayne).

Supporters of the resolution said that they intend to undo a 1993 West Virginia Supreme Court decision that overturned a state prohibition on Medicaid coverage for abortions. The justices had argued that the law discriminated against poor women.

"This would allow the Legislature to essentially override that decision without any ambiguity," Sen. Robert Karnes stated previously. "This will make it absolutely clear that it's constitutional for those things to pass," he added.

According to Charleston Gazette-Mail, proponents of the measure also noted that they want to clarify that state lawmakers have the right to restrict abortion.

Federal law prohibits the use of Medicaid funds to pay for abortions, but in West Virginia, it currently funds abortions that are deemed "medically necessary," meaning for a woman's well-being.

Opponents of the resolution expressed concern that it does not contain any exceptions. But supporters pointed out that while the resolution does not have any exceptions, the overturned law that they want to reinstate does.

The state law contained exceptions in cases of rape, incest, fetal anomalies or when the mother's life is in danger.

The West Virginia chapter of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposed the proposed Constitutional amendment, arguing that women can resort to unsafe ways to end their pregnancies at home when abortions are illegal or highly regulated.

Wanda Franz, president of West Virginians for Life, expressed support for the resolution and said that her group would be launching a campaign to encourage people to vote in favor of the measure.

"I don't know what our strategy is going to be. West Virginians for Life is a well-established grassroots group here in the state. We will be working with our chapters to encourage them to get out the vote," she said.

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