Strident social conservatives are at it again at the state capitol, trying to gin up reasons to pass legislation that would restrict access to abortion for all women – especially the poor – in West Virginia.
Don’t be fooled by the political deception. This isn’t about claiming the moral high ground, though these sanctimonious prigs are preening and posturing as such. It’s all about putting a measure on the ballot this fall to change the state’s constitution that might convince more like-minded conservatives to get off their backside and cast a ballot – against abortion rights and for their candidacy.
This is about them, folks, not about you – especially if you are female.
After pushing the resolution through its chamber on a preliminary vote on Thursday, the state Senate will cast a final vote today on whether to advance a constitutional referendum on the Legislature’s ability to restrict abortion rights. It is an effort that could change women’s access to reproductive health in West Virginia.
The resolution reads, “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.”
If the resolution makes its way to the ballot, voters would decide in November if they would be OK with banning Medicaid from funding abortions in the state.
Forget the fact that a state Supreme Court of Appeals decision ruled such legislation unconstitutional – way back in 1993. In Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, Inc. v. Panepinto, then-Chief Justice Margaret Workman wrote in the majority opinion that the law at the time, similar to its 2018 cousin, was unconstitutional because it discriminated against poor women who could not afford abortions without Medicaid.
Forget Roe v. Wade, too. That, of course, is the landmark decision issued 35 years ago – by the United States Supreme Court. By a rather significant 7-2 majority, the court ruled that a right to privacy under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion.
The court asserted that the “right of privacy … is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”
In other words, hands off, senator. That is her decision, not yours.
Evidently, none of this news has reached Senate chambers in Charleston.
Well, here’s some more. In 2017, according to the Pew Research Center, public support for legal abortion remained as high as it had been in two decades of polling: 57 percent said abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Public opinion, in others words, is going in the opposite direction as the West Virginia Senate.
We would remind everyone that these self-proclaimed freedom-loving conservatives who wrap themselves in the American flag while disrespecting the U.S. Constitution believe – in most matters – the government needs to mind its own business and keep its nose out of personal issues. Government overreach? Yeah, that’s their language – unless, of course, it has to do with a woman’s ovaries.
It’s not as though these folks don’t have other pressing concerns to address in full measure – like the opioid drug crisis, like the explosive growth in the number of children who need foster care, like providing broadband service to the entire state, like education from Kindergarten through college, like making the books balance at the end of the day, like developing a more diversified economy for the state.
And it’s not like the state’s image didn’t take another hit when news of the Senate action on Thursday hit the Associated Press wires. Nothing like announcing to the entire country that West Virginia does not respect women’s rights.
We aren’t exactly sure how that’s going to stop the outmigration of young people from our state – or encourage others to take up residency.
The irony, of course, is that legislators passed the resolution for final consideration on a day billed as “All Kinds Are Welcome Here Day” at the Capitol.
We kid you not.
The legislation still has some pretty high hurdles to clear before it sees the ballot. It would need to pass both chambers by a two-thirds majority and then have Gov. Jim Justice sign it.
That it has progressed this far concerns us deeply.
We think the Senate ought to stop this dangerous attempt at social engineering and get back to work on real issues that could help put this state back on track to more prosperous days ahead.
Abortion is a terribly difficult decision for any woman to face. But it is hers to make and not some chest-thumping politician who thinks he knows best.