Senate Rejects Democrat's Attempt to Modify Abortion Resolution

Feb 8, 2018

An amendment that would create exclusions to a resolution that grants no right to an abortion failed Thursday on the West Virginia Senate floor.

Sen. Corey Palumbo, a Democrat, offered an amendment to Senate Joint Resolution 12 that would have created an exception and allowed the right to an abortion in “the case of rape, incest or medical necessity.”

The committee substitute of the resolution, as cleared Monday by Senate Judiciary, states that nothing in the state constitution would secure or protect a right to an abortion or requires the funding of the procedure.

“It's pretty simple. I think it's important that we secure rights for women to have abortions in those very limited situations,” Palumbo explained from the Senate floor. “And I'll just say this, I'm not certain this is a fact, but I do believe that this will be the first time the constitution will be used to restrict rights of people in this state. And this would just at least limit that scope a little bit.”

Senate Judiciary Chair Charles Trump asked various questions of Palumbo and ultimately stated that the amendment would reverse the original intent of the resolution.

“First of all, I think it would be a dangerous precedent. And as far as I know, landmark action would be the first time of which I'm aware -- now there may be a state somewhere that has something in its constitution,” Trump said. “But if the senator from Kanawha's amendment is adopted, the West Virginia constitution will expressly guarantee a right to certain abortions. I'm not aware of any other state constitution of any of the states in the United States which has such a guarantee.”

Trump said the resolution would allow the Legislature to exercise some budgetary authority over the expenditure of Medicaid dollars.”

Trump also explained that the resolution, if passed, would override a 1993 West Virginia Supreme Court decision on abortions funded by taxpayers through Medicaid. The court declared that a law signed by then-Governor Gaston Caperton was unconstitutional -- in that it discriminated against low-income women.

Democrat Sen. Mike Romano stood in support of Palumbo’s amendment.

“If you're not playing politics--and we are playing politics here, we'll know that -- but if we're not playing politics, then we have to apply some common sense. And the common sense tells us that we cannot ignore someone's life when it's on the line,” Romano said.

Palumbo’s amendment was voted down 7-22 with five members absent. Sen. Bob Plymale was the only Democrat who voted against the amendment. The resolution moves on to Third Reading Friday and up for a vote.

Resolutions calling for constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority in both chambers before making their way on to the ballot for the the general public to decide.

If passed, Senate Joint Resolution 12 would clear up issues of constitutionality surrounding House Bill 4012. That bill seeks to exclude abortion from a list of services provided by Medicaid. After being passed by the House Health Committee, the bill is expected to soon be taken up by House Judiciary.