Tuesday’s election results brought bad news for pro-lifers who hoped to use a Republican majority to defund Planned Parenthood through the House of Representatives.
But although Republicans lost the House, two more states advanced initiatives challenging legal protections for abortion. As IJR has previously noted, pro-lifers have been pushing a long list of laws that could provide test cases for the courts to further restrict abortion access.
In West Virginia, voters approved a state constitutional amendment which clarified that “nothing in this constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or funding of abortion,” Reuters reported.
Alabama voters similarly approved a constitutional amendment which took the even greater step of recognizing “the sanctity of unborn life and rights of children, including the right to life.”
That amendment was specifically designed to prevent Alabama from hindering a challenge to Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court ruling limiting states’ ability to restrict abortion access.
“We want to make sure that at a state level, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, that the Alabama Constitution cannot be used as a mechanism by which to claim that there is a right to abortion,” Republican state Representative Matt Fridy said.
Both amendments opened the door to more pro-life legislation in the event SCOTUS overturned Roe v. Wade, according to the pro-life Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List.
“In West Virginia, the immediate impact will be that taxpayers will no longer be forced to fund elective abortion – abortion-on-demand – in Medicaid,” Mallory Quigley, Vice President of Communications for SBA List, told IJR via email.
“The state supreme court previously ruled that taxpayers must pay for elective abortions under Medicaid, even though WV is a strong pro-life state.”
In a press release, SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser went so far as to speculate that West Virginia’s Amendment 1 could save “the lives of 1,500 unborn children in the state every year.”
LiveAction’s Lila Rose also hailed the developments as “GREAT NEWS” on Twitter:
GREAT NEWS: Last night, two pro-life measures in West Virginia & Alabama —PASSED! ?
Alabama's law says it will "recognize & support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children," granting "fetal personhood" once Roe is overturned.https://t.co/YlFitSLfNH
— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) November 7, 2018
Tom McClusky, Vice President of Government Affairs for the March for Life, similarly celebrated the amendments’ approval. “West Virginia and Alabama both highlighted that when left up to the American people they are pro-life,” he said in a statement provided to IJR.
“Other states should follow their example and prepare for the inevitable when abortion is unthinkable.”
McClusky, however, pointed out that Republicans failed to defund Planned Parenthood despite repeated promises to do so.
“Members campaign on defunding the abortion-giant, the president even included it on his list of for pro-life priorities for his administration,” he said.
“However when given multiple opportunities Congress failed to deliver on this promise and the result is continued Federal funding to abortion providers,” he added. “If Republicans ever want to be the majority again this is a promise they need to craft a plan that does what they say.”
As IJR previously noted, the president passed on pro-life leaders’ request that he veto a spending package that continued funding the nation’s largest abortion provider. March for Life president Jeanne Mancini predicted that Democrats would use their newfound majority to attack pro-life gains under Trump’s administration:
“Protecting vulnerable, unborn citizens should be a bipartisan goal but sadly Democrats today are held hostage to an extremist pro-abortion lobby. Since they now have control of the U.S. House of Representatives, we can expect pro-abortion Committee Leadership as well as legislative initiatives that advance a pro-abortion agenda. All pro-life gains made by this Administration will come under fire, and we will no doubt see efforts to expand taxpayer funding for abortion as well as the erosion of conscience rights. While the results of these midterm elections represent a significant setback, some measures can still be taken to minimize the damage and at the same time advance the pro-life cause. The President should issue an immediate veto threat any time standing pro-life policies, for example the Hyde amendment, are stripped from legislation and continue to fill out appointments in the various Departments with people who will work toward a pro-life agenda. The Senate, too, can accelerate the rate at which Judicial and Executive branch nominations are confirmed.”
While it’s unclear how exactly Democrats will advance that agenda, much of abortion access might not be in their hands after Justice Brett Kavanaugh solidified a conservative majority on the Supreme Court.