Amendment on the ballot

On Nov. 6, West Virginia voters will be asked to vote Yes or No on Amendment No. 1, which would change the state constitution to read as follows: “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects the right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.”

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, which held that the U.S. Constitution protects the right to abortion under most circumstances, opponents — having failed in their original goal to ban the procedure nationwide — have settled instead for a series of attempts to chip away at this constitutional right by making abortion as difficult to obtain as possible, or by passing a series of measures of questionable constitutionality, then effectively daring their opponents to challenge them.

Amendment No. 1 is an example of this. The U.S. Constitution has already affirmed — through the Roe v. Wade decision — the right to abortion. No state constitution can overrule the U.S. Constitution, and surely Amendment No. 1’s sponsors know this. This is in fact a rather transparent invitation to the state legislature to enact a law they know will be challenged in court with the hope that the eventual outcome will be the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court.

No issue in recent times has proven quite so controversial and fraught with emotion as abortion. It’s crystal clear that no one LIKES abortion; even those who want to see the procedure remain legal hope that it remains “safe, legal, and rare,” as President Clinton once put it. But it is exceedingly difficult for most of us to put ourselves in the shoes of an unintentionally pregnant woman, perhaps young and unmarried, perhaps the victim of rape or incest, perhaps one whose life may be endangered by pregnancy and childbirth. Or the agony of an excited young mother-to-be who discovers in pregnancy a medical problem that means the fetus would not survive after birth.

Amendment No.1 opens the door to the type of legislation regulating abortion that may or may not take into account these factors. The Supreme Court realized almost 50 years ago that the Fourteenth Amendment’s right to privacy affirmed the right of a woman to make such a difficult decision herself in consultation with her family, her conscience, and her faith.

Please vote “no” on Amendment No. 1.

James R. Odom