The decision on whether to vote “For” or “Against” the two amendments proposed to the state constitution in the 2018 election boils to responsible spending of taxpayer money. If you don’t think the hard-earned money that you send to the state every year in the form of taxes should be spent on something you are morally opposed to — like termination of healthy pregnancies — or just plain wasteful — like $32,000 couches and half-a-million dollar office renovations, then the obvious vote on both issues is “For” the amendments.
Since 1993, West Virginians have lived with the legal fiction that our state constitution guarantees the right to abortion.
That was the year that the state Supreme Court, in an opinion by Justice Margaret Workman, purported to find that right in the document, which was adopted in 1872 and, of course, mentions neither abortion nor any other medical procedure.
Not only did the court create a constitutional right out of whole cloth, but it also decided that public funds must be used to guarantee access to abortion.
So for 25 years, West Virginia taxpayers — who disapprove of abortion by solid majorities — have been required to pay for the procedure under the pretense that the state constitution requires it.
Voters have the opportunity to end that pretense by adopting Amendment 1, which simply clarifies what should have been apparent all along: The West Virginia constitution neither requires nor prohibits access to abortion.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade currently guarantees a right to abortion in every state in the nation (though not public funds for the procedure).
Amendment 1 will not and cannot change that.
What it can do is return authority over other abortion-related questions — like public funding — to the voters via their elected legislators.
A “For” vote on Amendment 1 is a vote for the public’s voice over activist judges. Twenty-five years of fiction is more than enough.
The only real question surrounding Amendment 2 — which would establish legislative oversight over the state’s judicial budget — is by how large of a margin will it pass.
That’s entirely understandable in light of the well-publicized spending scandals at the state Supreme Court, which culminated over the past several months in the impeachments, resignations and federal convictions of various justices.
But it’s also a shame that the controversy has choked off what could have been a robust debate about the relationship between the judicial and legislative branches.
There are respectable arguments for the judiciary maintaining sole control of its budget — foremost, that such an arrangement preserves judicial independence.
That was the argument state Supreme Court justices always made against legislative oversight.
Unfortunately, the justices’ own irresponsible behavior has made that argument moot when you consider onerous spending of $32,000 for a sofa in Justice Allen Loughry’s office, plus $56,500 for glass countertops, $48,000 in cabinetry and much more in Justice Robin Davis’ $500,000 office renovation.
Those outrageous expenditures, and many more like them, demonstrated in an embarrassingly sordid fashion that the Supreme Court is incapable of policing itself.
Independence requires trust. The Supreme Court has shattered that trust. The appropriate correction is for West Virginia voters to pass Amendment 2 and establish legislative oversight over the judicial budget.