Pro-Life Win in West Virginia

New amendment says abortion is not a constitutional right

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Abortion supporters suffered a major setback in West Virginia after voters amended the state constitution.

On Tuesday 52 percent of the state's voters approved Amendment 1, which overturned a 1993 court ruling that allowed taxpayer-funded abortions. The ballot measure specifically said that the West Virginia constitution does not include the right to kill a baby in the womb, opening the door for restrictions on the practice, as well as prohibition if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. Pro-lifers celebrated the result.

"West Virginians value life and reject abortion on demand," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. "Over the years, West Virginia taxpayers have been forced to fund the destruction of more than 35,000 innocent unborn children—including late-term abortions—at a cost of nearly $10 million. This outrageous abuse ends now."

SBA List was one of the biggest backers of the amendment. Its volunteers visited more than 110,000 voters to support the measure. The group suffered a setback when Democratic senator and self-described pro-lifer Joe Manchin announced he would oppose Amendment 1 in the final debate before he won re-election.

"The passage of Amendment 1 is a victory for the Mountain State and we hope other states will follow their lead," Dannenfelser said in an email.

Abortion supporters saw the ballot measure as an attempt to undermine federal protections. Roe v. Wade abolished state laws circumscribing the practice. If it were overturned, states would assume the role of regulating abortion. The National Abortion Federation condemned the amendment, saying it would "strip away" the current regime of abortion on demand. The group also lamented the fact that taxpayers would no longer subsidize the procedure.

"We are incredibly disappointed that this ill-advised amendment passed," NAF CEO Katherine Ragsdale said in a statement. "Withholding coverage for abortion care creates profound hardships for women and families, particularly for those who already face significant barriers to receiving high-quality health care."

Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, said West Virginia voters supported the amendment for those very reasons. The group, which sponsors an annual demonstration to mourn the Supreme Court's Roe decision, campaigned for the initiative to demonstrate that taxpayer dollars are used to pay for about 15,000 abortions each year. Amendment 1 was necessary to "ensure that nothing therein [the state constitution] secures a right to abortion or compels taxpayer funding for abortion," according to McClusky.

"No one should be denied their right to life, and no one should be forced to pay for a procedure that ends a life," he said in an email. "West Virginia's littlest and most vulnerable citizens are safer now because of it."

Bill McMorris   Email Bill | Full Bio | RSS
Bill McMorris is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He joins the Beacon from the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, where he was managing editor of Old Dominion Watchdog. He was a 2010 Robert Novak Fellow with the Phillips Foundation, where he studied state pension shortfalls. His work has been featured on CNN, Fox News, The Economist, Colbert Report, and numerous print publications and radio stations. He lives in Alexandria, Va, with his wife and three daughters. His Twitter handle is @FBillMcMorris. His email address is mcmorris@freebeacon.com.

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