Of 54 counties reporting at about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, most voters had voted for a constitutional amendment that would give West Virginia lawmakers more authority over abortion in West Virginia.
Amendment No. 1, the “No Constitutional Right to Abortion Amendment,” had received 286,708 “yes” votes (51.62 percent) and 268,751 “no” votes (48.38 percent).
Members of the West Virginia Legislature voted during the last legislative session to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot.
The amendment states: “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.”
Supporters had noted the amendment would undo a 1993 state Supreme Court decision that required Medicaid to cover abortions for poor women.
While the amendment goes further than that, removing the ability of courts to serve as a check on the legislature on abortion rights issues in general, proponents were successful in keeping most of the debate, in media, rallies and discussion elsewhere, about Medicaid funding.
Lawyers and other observers familiar with the checks and balances system of government in West Virginia and nationwide, noted that the amendment would also remove the ability of courts to find constitutional problems with any abortion restriction the legislature might want to enact.
After Tennessee passed the same law in 2014, its state’s lawmakers passed several new abortion restrictions, all having nothing to do with Medicaid.
Jessica Arons, a lawyer at the national ACLU, had noted the amendment would let West Virginia lawmakers, who are mainly anti-abortion, ban abortion entirely should the United States Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade.
Or, should the Supreme Court let the states legislate abortion out of existence, Arons noted the amendment would prevent people from suing about it.
The West Virginia Legislature has enacted several abortion restrictions since the GOP took the majority in 2014. West Virginia is down to one facility, the Women’s Health Center in Charleston, that provides abortions.
Sharon Lewis, who has worked at the Women’s Health Center for about 30 years, has noted, “Desperate women died,” before Roe v. Wade was decided.
Opponents of the measure had noted the amendment includes no exceptions for victims of rape or incest, as well as any exceptions for the life of the mother.
Supporters had noted that existing law does include exceptions.
But the West Virginia Legislature can change that law.
The amendment was opposed by the state chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the National Association of Social Workers, the League of Women Voters, the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services, and the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
It was supported by GOP leaders, many lawmakers and West Virginians for Life.
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