Alabama and West Virginia just passed anti-abortion amendments—here’s why this is so dangerous

Despite the many progressive victories during the 2018 midterm elections, unfortunately, it’s not all good news. Both Alabama and West Virginia passed amendments that could endanger abortion rights—and potentially lead to more restrictive abortion laws.

As The Hill reports, 59% of Alabama voters approved a change to the state constitution that declares it state policy to protect “the rights of unborn children” and “support the sanctity of unborn life.” The amendment also states that there will be no state constitutional protections for abortion rights.

Meanwhile, in West Virginia, 52% of voters passed a similar state policy against abortion. According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, the amendment declares that nothing in the West Virginia constitution “secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.” The amendment—known as Amendment 1—also reverses a 1993 state Supreme Court decision that allowed Medicaid funds to cover abortions.

Although neither the West Virginia nor the Alabama election results ban abortion outright, the passage of these amendments could have devastating consequences in the future—especially if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. In a blog post, Carolyn Ehrlich, senior political strategist for the ACLU, wrote that if Roe is repealed, the Alabama abortion measure could cause both abortion and certain kinds of birth control to be outlawed.

As Reuters notes, Alabama recently attempted to ban surgical abortions.

In West Virginia, Amendment 1 could open the door for more anti-abortion laws to be passed. Anne Lofaso, a law professor at the University of West Virginia College of Law, told the Gazette-Mail that abortion could become a crime in the state if Roe is overturned. She noted that West Virginia still has a law that criminalizes abortion, even though it is currently unconstitutional.

"So this is what will happen: If Roe v. Wade is overturned, then advocates of the law to criminalize abortion would say that, ‘law is now in effect and it cannot be saved by the West Virginia Constitution,’ if this amendment passes," Lofaso told the Gazette-Mail. 

West Virginia currently prohibits abortion after 20 weeks into a pregnancy.

Even outside of these two states, these amendments have serious implications for reproductive rights. In a recent report, Planned Parenthood estimated that 20 states could ban abortion if Roe is repealed, and West Virginia and Alabama’s new amendments show how that dangerous reality could come to pass.

The midterm elections may be over, but we need to keep fighting to make sure that reproductive rights are available to all Americans.

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