A national organization has spent about $500,000 campaigning for an anti-abortion amendment to the West Virginia constitution, the group announced Monday.
Susan B. Anthony List’s campaign for Amendment 1 has included door-to-door canvassers, radio, TV, digital and direct mail advertisements, spokeswoman Mallory Quigley said during a news conference Monday afternoon.
If Amendment 1 passes, a line will be added to the state constitution that says “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.”
The amendment would undo a 1993 state Supreme Court decision that said low-income women had the right to an abortion with Medicaid funding.
Opponents say the amendment could recriminalize abortion in West Virginia if the Supreme Court were to someday overturn Roe v. Wade and it would make it more difficult for women to legally challenge state laws restricting abortions. They also criticize it for not having exceptions for the life of the mother, rape or incest.
Anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, along with Delegate Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette, representatives from West Virginians for Life and other supporters of the amendment held the news conference outside the Charleston campaign office of Sen. Joe Manchin, whom they criticized as not taking a side in the debate about the amendment.
“We’re here to urge all West Virginians to vote yes on Amendment 1, which would stop taxpayer funding of abortion on demand and save the lives of 1,500 unborn children a year,” she said.
She said for months a team of 75 canvassers have been going door to door in West Virginia and have reached almost 50,000 voters. They’ve talked about the amendment and Sen. Joe Manchin’s stance on abortion, she said.
She said voters have been “horrified” to learn the state has paid for elective abortions for more than 20 years.
“They’re horrified that in 2017 alone Medicaid paid for 1,560 babies to be aborted and this isn’t slowing down,” she said.
The anti-abortion groups criticized Manchin Monday for not saying where he stands on Amendment 1.
“MetroNews reported in January that Medicaid-funded abortions tripled in the last five years,” Quigley said. “They’ve tripled at taxpayer expense. Voters have a chance to turn that tide. They can do that by passing Amendment 1, by electing true pro-life champions. That does not include Sen. Joe Manchin. Where does Sen. Manchin stand on Amendment 1? He won’t say for sure.”
Since 2013, the state has also expanded its Medicaid program to cover low-income residents, which could be one reason for the increase in abortions.
Neither Manchin’s campaign spokesman nor the spokesman for his congressional offices office answered requests for comment Monday afternoon.
But Manchin recently commented on the amendment to a Politico reporter.
“We’ll just see what happens, OK? Why do you want an answer on that? There’s so many important things,” Manchin said, according to Politico. “If it doesn’t have incest, rape and life of the mother exceptions in it, it’s the wrong thing to be on the ballot. I don’t think it does, and they keep saying it does.”
While anti-abortion activists have been campaigning for Amendment 1, a coalition led by WV Free, the ACLU of West Virginia, Planned Parenthood and the Women’s Center of West Virginia have campaigned against it.
The coalition launched TV ads throughout the Charleston-Huntington, Beckley-Bluefield areas as well as digital ads and a direct mail campaign that will go to 200,000 people, it said in a release.
“We’re leaving no stone unturned as we move into the final days before the election,” Julie Warden, a spokeswoman for the Vote No On Amendment 1 Coalition, said in a release. “We are serious about educating voters in every way we can about why Amendment 1 is bad for West Virginians. We mean business.”