Voters approve Amendment One abortion issue

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Voters have approved an amendment that would make the state Constitution neutral on abortion.

Amendment One was passing by 17,184 votes with 97 percent of precincts reporting.

The amendment proposed this language be added to the state Constitution: “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.”

Opponents criticized that wording as confusing. They also said the amendment would open the door to lawmakers placing more and more restrictions on abortion.

Opponents also noted that the resolution does not include language about rape, incest or saving the life of the mother.

Amendment One’s most immediate effect would be to nullify the state Supreme Court decision, Women’s Health Center of West Virginia Inc. v Panepinto.

That 1993 decision overturned a state law that specified no funds from Medicaid could be used to pay for an abortion, except in instances of the woman’s life was at risk or cases of rape or incest.

The Republican majority in the state Legislature became concerned this past year by reports showing West Virginia Medicaid funds had paid for 1,560 abortions last year and 1,217 abortions the prior year.

Those numbers were up significantly from prior years. There had been 763 in 2015, 544 in 2014, 502 in 2013, 517 in 2012, 630 in 2011, 678 in 2010 and 677 in 2009.

The national anti-abortion organization Susan B. Anthony List dedicated $500,000 toward supporting the amendment and to its campaign against U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.