CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Opponents of a proposal to end statewide Medicaid funding for abortions in West Virginia are armed with new poll numbers showing most likely Mountain State voters want to see money for reproductive health care remain in place.
Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of West Virginia FREE, detailed the results of the poll from Hart Research Associates, a strategic and public opinion research firm, on Wednesday at the State Capitol.
In that poll, 65 percent of those questioned said they supported Medicaid insurance coverage for reproductive health care, including maternity care, prenatal, family planning, annual checkups, birth control and abortions.
About 27 percent percent opposed such funding in the poll, Chapman Pomponio said.
“What these poll numbers really show is what everyday West Virginians think about this issue,” she told MetroNews.
“I know us to be a compassionate, generous people and that is what this poll confirms. Voters also don’t think that this should be a priority for legislators this session.”
Backers of the proposal have their own polls and some momentum, they’ve claimed, for legislation addressing Medicaid abortion funding this legislative session.
They cite a January 2017 Marist poll which found that 61 percent opposed the use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortions.
West Virginia’s current policy was established in 1993 when the state Supreme Court struck down a state law blocking the Medicaid program from funding abortions unless lives of mothers were in danger.
Justice Margaret Workman wrote the opinion for the majority in that Panepinto case and called the law an “overreach” by the state.
“We hold that when state government seeks to act for the common benefit, protection and security of the people in providing medical care for the poor, it has an obligation to do so in a neutral manner so as not to infringe upon the constitutional rights of our citizens,” Workman wrote.
This session, lawmakers will likely see a bill excluding abortions from essential medical services covered through Medicaid “unless in the opinion of a physician such procedures are necessary for the preservation of the life of the woman seeking such a treatment.”
Such a bill’s expected to start in the House of Delegates.
Chapman Pomponio was calling on lawmakers to drop the matter entirely. “This effort to take away Medicaid coverage from poor women is doing nothing to move West Virginia forward,” she said.
Earlier this month, lawmakers were told the number of Medicaid-funded abortions in West Virginia had tripled — from 502 in 2013 to 1,560 in 2017.