Voters in Alabama and West Virginia have approved amendments to their states’ constitutions regarding the right to an abortion by making it clear that citizens do not have a right to abortion and their states are not obliged to fund abortions.
The amendment changes here do not affect the public’s access to abortion in the United States. However, the amendments would become the states’ top legal guidance if the U.S. Supreme Court decides to overturn or change the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
The Roe v. Wade ruling made it legal to have an abortion nationwide by prohibiting states from banning abortions prior to when the fetus is deemed “viable,” that is, potentially able to live outside its mother’s womb.
In Alabama, 58.9 percent of voters said, “Yes” on Nov. 6 to Alabama State Abortion Policy Amendment 2. This adds wording to the state’s 1901 constitution to say it that will “recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life.”
The amendment will also “ensure the protection of the rights of the unborn child in all manners and measures lawful and appropriate.”
Furthermore, it states, “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.”
In West Virginia, 51.7 percent of voters approved to add the same above phrase to its state constitution on Nov. 6.
Alliance for a Pro-Life Alabama was the one committee that had registered in support of the amendment in Alabama, and had raised almost $8,000 and spent only $303.45 on its campaign, according to Ballotpedia.
Planned Parenthood was the top donor to the committees that campaigned against the amendment in Alabama. It had donated $1.38 million in total to Alabama for Healthy Families and Alabama Students Voting No on Amendment 2, according to Ballotpedia.
In West Virginia, there was no known group that had registered in opposition to the amendment. A group called West Virginians for Life had led the campaign to support the amendment. It reported receiving about $9,300 in cash contributions, and spent $7,300 in cash, according to Ballotpedia.
Unborn Babies’ Right to Life
In Alabama, Rick Renshaw of the Alliance for a Pro-Life Alabama calls the amendment a policy declaration for Alabama voters to show they believe in protecting the rights and lives of unborn babies, according to AP.
In West Virginia, the amendment would make it easier for the state’s lawmakers to pass laws that acknowledged babies’ right to life. This could include a restriction on taxpayer funding for abortions, according to West Virginians For Life Legislative Liaison Karen Cross, Life News reported.
“If [the amendment] is ratified by the voters in November, then West Virginia will join 33 other states and the federal government in limiting taxpayer funding of abortion,” she said previously.
West Virginia is one of 17 states that has a policy—from a 1993 West Virginia Supreme Court decision—that directs taxpayer-funded Medicaid to pay for all or most abortions that are deemed “medically necessary.”
“What is a ‘medically necessary abortion?’ To the abortion industry, that’s code for elective abortion,” reporter Kaite Yoder wrote on Life News.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 6, had previously acknowledged that the Supreme Court “can always overrule” Roe v. Wade, according to a memo he wrote in 2003.
“I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since court can always overrule its precedent,” he wrote.
In Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court said that if unborn children are persons, then they have the right to life. The decision concluded that unborn children are not persons, and acknowledged that the case to prohibit states from banning abortions would “collapse” if “the fetus is a person,” because then its “right to life would then be guaranteed” by the Constitution.
Alabama Judge Had Called to Overrule Roe v. Wade
On Oct. 19, the Alabama Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Jessie Phillips v. State of Alabama, “The value of the life of an unborn child is no less than the value of the lives of other persons.” In an opinion statement (pdf), Justice Parker subsequently called on the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision.
“I urge the Supreme Court of the United States to reconsider the Roe exception and to overrule this constitutional aberration” wrote the Alabama Supreme Court judge, and recommended that the court “return the power to the states to fully protect the most vulnerable among us,” she wrote.
The Trump Administration
The White House released a statement on Jan. 19 titled Donald J. Trump is Standing Up for the Sanctity of Life. It quoted President Donald Trump as saying, “We cherish the sacred dignity of every human life.”
The statement pointed out that the United States is one of only seven countries that allows for elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It also said that, according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, taxpayer funding subsidizes 900 health care plans that cover abortions.
The statement also said that President Trump supports the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would make it illegal to have late-term abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, “when science tells us that an unborn child can experience pain.”
In October 2017, several media outlets reported that the Trump administration had made a move to officially assert that life begins at conception. They pointed out that, in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS’s) 2018-2022 strategic plan, one of the introductory passages read: “HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, from conception.”
An excerpt from another section in the HHS’s strategic plan reads, “The department is designing health care options that are responsive to consumer demands, while removing barriers to participation for faith-based and other community-based providers.”