On Friday, the West Virginia Senate passed SJR 12 by a 25-9 vote to provide for a Constitutional Amendment on abortion funding. The Amendment would likely be up for ratification during the 2018 election cycle.
The purpose of SJR 12 is to return the state Constitution to a neutral position on abortion. It reads, “Nothing in the Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.”
The language in West Virginia’s bill is the same as Tennessee successfully used in a 2014 amendment removing the right to abortion from its state constitution. As is the case in Tennessee, the amendment is intended to neutralize a decision by a state Supreme Court—the 1993 Panepinto decision which required West Virginia state taxpayers to pay for women’s Medicaid abortions.
SJR 12 simply eliminates the influence of the Panepinto decision so the restriction on funding of abortion is reinstated in the form it was in 1993, unless the West Virginia Legislature passes an updated law.
Over the years the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services reports that state taxpayers have spent nearly $10,000,000 on approximately 35,000 abortions. Most of those were elective abortions performed for any reason. The sole purpose of SJR 12 is to 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.
In Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that abortion is a right under the U.S. Constitution. But in Harris vs. McRae, the Supreme Court also subsequently ruled that the “right” to abortion does not provide for a government entitlement, that is, the West Virginia Legislature is free to prohibit abortion funding.
Under SJR 12, a woman’s right to abortion will not be affected in any way. “A woman can still get an abortion in West Virginia for any reason,” said Wanda Franz, president of West Virginians for Life. “A woman has always been able to get an abortion to save her life, even before Roe v. Wade in 1973. It is a lie to say that women will die because of SJR 12.”