A proposed amendment to the West Virginia Constitution that would state nothing within the constitution protects abortion rights now goes to the House of Delegates for consideration.
The state Senate voted 25-9 Friday to pass Senate Joint Resolution 12, the “no constitutional right to abortion amendment,” which supporters hope will allow them to halt Medicaid funding of abortion in West Virginia.
The amendment would also prevent the state constitution from being used to argue against further abortion restrictions.
If it passes the House of Delegates with the two-thirds majority needed, it would then be placed on the ballot in November.
Supporters want to insert an amendment in the West Virginia Constitution that states: “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.”
In 1993, West Virginia Supreme Court justices overturned a state law prohibiting Medicaid funding of abortions, except in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother or fetus was not expected to survive. Justices found that the law discriminated against poor women.
Supporters of the resolution, sponsored by Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, hope it will allow for easier passage of another bill, currently in the House of Delegates, aimed at that Supreme Court decision. That bill, House Bill 4012, would ban Medicaid funding of abortion except to save the life of the mother.
State senators rejected a motion Thursday by Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, to add exceptions for victims of rape and incest, and pregnancies that would kill the mother, to the resolution.
Seven senators — all men — spoke to the resolution before passage. Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone and a doctor, read a letter from the West Virginia Section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which opposes the resolution.
All state senators were present for the vote. Most of the senators who voted yes were Republicans. Democratic Senators Roman Prezioso, D-Marion; John Unger, D-Berkeley; and Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, also voted yes.
The remaining Democrats voted no.
Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, directed a group of protesters from the Women’s March group in Jefferson County to be removed from the gallery following the vote. They were calling “shame” to the lawmakers below.
West Virginians for Life, in a news release, said the resolution would “eliminate the Court’s control over the funding of abortion in West Virginia.
“It will return this power to the people’s elected representatives in the West Virginia Legislature, where it belongs.”
Joseph Cohen, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia, said in a statement after the vote that “25 legislators have chosen to side with misogynists and fundamentalist religious extremists who are hell-bent on imposing their own religious agendas on all West Virginians.”
Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of WV Free, said she worried the bill would “open the floodgates” to more restrictions.