Three states consider abortion, religious freedom amendments in midterm vote

Polling Place Vote Here Sign. Credit: Shutterstock
Polling Place Vote Here Sign. Credit: Shutterstock

.- As Americans headed to the polls on Nov. 6 to vote in midterm elections, much of the media focus has been on how the results will shape the national political landscape. But in three states voters will be considering proposed state constitutional amendments that would protect the rights of the unborn and promote religious liberty.

 

In Alabama, voters will be deciding on amendments which would change the state constitution to protect religious liberty and to establish a right to life of unborn children.

 

Amendment 1 would specifically protect the right to display a monument of the Ten Commandments on public property, something which has been challenged in state and federal courts.

 

“Amendment 1 does two things,” reads a description of the measure on the Alabama Secretary of State website.

 

“First, it provides that a person is free to worship God as he or she chooses, and that a person’s religious beliefs will have no effect on his or her civil or political rights. Second, it makes clear that the Ten Commandments may be displayed on public property so long as the display meets constitutional requirements, such as being displayed along with historical or educational items.”

 

The Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a case regarding the legality of a cross-shaped monument on public land. Previously, in 2005, the court found that a monument of the Ten Commandments at the Texas State Capitol was constitutional and did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

 

Amendment 2, if passed, would amend the Alabama Constitution “to declare and otherwise affirm that it is the public policy of this state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, most importantly the right to life in all manners and measures appropriate and lawful; and to provide that the constitution of this state does not protect the right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

 

While strongly worded, Amendment 2 will not be legally enforceable unless the Supreme Court overturned its decision in Roe v. Wade, which found a legal right to abortion throughout a pregnancy. If that were to happen, and the legality of abortion became a state-by-state issue, Amendment 2 could make abortion illegal in Alabama.

 

Oregon residents will vote on Measure 106, a citizen’s initiative to amend the state constitution to prohibit public funds being used for abortion, except when necessary to save the life of the mother, such as an ectopic pregnancy.

 

Current Oregon law states that “abortions may be obtained, when approved by medical professional, under state-funded health plans or under health insurance procured by or through a public employer or other public service.” If Measure 106 passes, this will no longer be the case.

 

Unlike many abortion restriction measures, in the Oregon proposal there is no exception for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest.

 

Measure 106 narrowly qualified for the ballot in September with fewer than 300 signatures more than the legal minimum.

 

According to Americans United for Life’s annual “Life List,” which ranks states by pro-life laws, Oregon has some of the loosest abortion laws in the country. Oregon came in at 46, ahead of  only New Jersey, Vermont, California, and Washington.

 

In West Virginia, voters will be considering Amendment 1, which would “amend the West Virginia Constitution to clarify that nothing in the Constitution of West Virginia secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.”

 

This amendment was sponsored by 15 Republican members of the West Virginia legislature, and was passed with bipartisan support so that it could appear on Tuesday’s ballot. Unlike Oregon’s Measure 106, West Virginia Amendment 1 has an exception for pregnancies that are the result of rape and incest.


Currently, West Virginia law actually criminalizes both the procurement of and performance of an abortion, but this law is not in effect due to Roe v. Wade. If Roe were to be overturned, and Amendment 1 were to pass, it would prevent judges from interpreting the West Virginia constitution in a way which would protect legal abortion in any subsequent court battle.

 

Abortion is legal in West Virginia until 22 weeks gestation.

 

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who is considered to be one of the country’s more vulnerable Democratic senators, does not support Amendment 1. While he has often been seen as a pro-life Democrat, recent votes to continue funding for Planned Parenthood have undermined this position.

Tags: Abortion, Religous liberty, Right to life, 2018 Midterm elections