I arrive at DTG Blog sheepishly, behind schedule, having been entirely too wrapped up in my own state’s election (424 legislative seats, for starters). As I look at results past the state line, I see that voters in West Virginia and Alabama passed pro-life ballot measures that are essential but shouldn’t have been needed. The voters clarified in formal terms that their state constitutions do not protect, create, or require a right to abortion.
Therefore, if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned in a manner that returns abortion regulation to the states, abortion will not already be “baked into” the West Virginia and Alabama constitutions, so to speak. Among other implications, nothing in those state constitutions will require taxpayers to fund abortions via Medicaid.
Abortion advocates are not happy about these ballot measures, any more than they were happy about a similar one passed by Tennessee voters in 2014. The U.S. Supreme Court refused last month to hear a challenge to the Tennessee measure. That’s good news, but it indicates the lengths to which abortion supporters will go to prevent states from adopting abortion neutrality in their constitutions.
Also on Tuesday, New Hampshire (my home state) passed Question 2, a constitutional amendment asserting the right to informational privacy. Cornerstone Action, a policy advocacy group to which I’m a consultant, opposed Question 2 out of a concern that it might be misused to invent a right to abortion under the state constitution. The sponsors of the measure were at pains to assure us that it wouldn’t affect abortion at all one way or another. Question 2 passed easily. Time will tell if it will lead to the need for a ballot measure like the ones passed this week in Alabama and West Virginia.
Alabama’s Amendment 2, which passed with 61% of votes, amends the state’s Constitution “to declare and otherwise affirm that it is the public policy of the state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children … and to provide that the constitution of this state does not protect the right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”
Oregonians shot down Measure 106, which would have prohibited the use of public funds to pay for abortions except in cases in which there’s a federal requirement or when the procedure is deemed “medically necessary.” Only 37% of voters voted for the measure, while 63% came out in opposition.
This is an important victory. The passage of Amendment 1 will prevent taxpayer funding of abortion for elective abortions in West Virginia. Currently, the Hyde amendment only allows for federal funding of abortion in very limited circumstances. However, 17 states, including West Virginia, use state taxpayer dollars pay for elective abortions for women on Medicaid. In West Virginia, like nearly every other state, this policy did not come about through the democratic process. In 1993, in Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, et al. v. Panepinto, et al. the state supreme court ruled that the state was required to pay for elective abortions for women on Medicaid. The passage of Amendment 1 will eliminate the Panepinto funding requirement.
Ellen Kolb is a New Hampshire-based writer who blogs about the life issues at Leaven for the Loaf.
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