Voters in West Virginia passed a ballot initiative that would amend the state’s constitution to strip away abortion protections, which abortion rights advocates warn could make it harder for women to ensure abortion access through the courts, and give lawmakers more cover to pass legislation restricting abortion.
Known as the “No Constitutional Right to Abortion Amendment,” Amendment 1 would add a line delineating that “nothing in this constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion,” with no exceptions for rape, incest or life of the mother.
It could directly prevent low-income women on Medicaid from being able to use their public funding for abortions. West Virginia is one of 17 states that allow Medicaid funding to be allocated for most abortions deemed “medically necessary.”
In the long term, the amendment would likely face legal action and would be unenforceable because Roe v. Wade ensures a woman’s right to an abortion — unless the Supreme Court overturns the landmark ruling, increasingly a possibility given the court’s conservative majority under President Donald Trump.
By not guaranteeing a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, the state is further endangering abortion access, according to “Vote No on 1,” a coalition of organizations which campaigned against the amendment. The group includes Planned Parenthood, the ACLU of West Virginia, the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, and WV Free, a reproductive rights advocacy organization.
Numerous medical organizations also opposed the amendment, according to the Beckley Register-Herald.
This year, voters in two other states, Alabama and Oregon, considered similar anti-abortion ballot initiatives. The measures are among a number of state-level efforts, led by Republican lawmakers and anti-abortion activists, to curtail abortion rights in recent years.
Anti-abortion activists in West Virginia promoted the amendment as a way to prevent taxpayers from funding abortions.
“The taxpayer, in other words, would be off the hook for paying for elective abortions,” Mary Anne Buchanan, program director for West Virginians for Life, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail last month. “In our way of thinking, this is a taxpayers’ rights amendment because people that don’t believe in abortion don’t feel like they should have to pay for them.”