Abortion rights continue to be chipped away through the ballot box, a reminder that a post-Roe future has in many respects already arrived in the United States. On Tuesday, voters in Alabama and West Virginia approved ballot measures that restrict access to abortion.
In Alabama, voters approved an initiative that would amend the state’s constitution to state that “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.” The amendment also establishes so-called “fetal personhood,” requiring the state to “recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life” and “ensure the protection of the rights of the unborn child.”
As the National Organization of Women put it, “The measure was designed, according to its Republican sponsor, as a blueprint for states to use following a Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.”
“It paves the way to ban abortion without exception,” said Katie Glenn, the Alabama state director of Planned Parenthood Southeast, in an interview with the Washington Post.
Beyond its implications for access to abortion, fetal personhood, as its called, also creates a political and legal landscape that criminalizes pregnant people. In recent years, fetal rights have been invoked to arrest women for stillbirths, for drug use during pregnancy, and for refusing medical care.
That wasn’t the only bad news out of Alabama last night, as Mother Jones reports:
Compounding the threat to reproductive rights in the state, voters also elevated Alabama Supreme Court Associate Justice Tom Parker to the chief justice’s seat. Parker is a Roy Moore protégé who has positioned himself as an extreme anti-abortion scholar. He’s said that the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision was “invented out of whole cloth just to satisfy a political agenda,” and his legal writing puts him at the forefront of the so-called personhood movement, which contends that fetuses should have the same legal rights as people.
In West Virginia, voters approved a ballot measure that, similar to Alabama’s initiative, sought to change the constitution to state that “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.”
According to the Washington Post, “the immediate impact would be that the procedure is no longer covered for Medicaid beneficiaries,” except in cases of rape, incest, fetal abnormalities, or life endangerment. This enshrines the restrictions of the Hyde Amendment into the state constitution.
In Oregon, as a shred of good news, voters rejected a ballot measure that sought to ban the use of public funds for abortions, except when “medically necessary” or “as may be required by federal law.”
“The immediate impact,” noted the Post, “would be to block the state’s Medicaid beneficiaries and people who have state and local employee health plans from being able to use their health coverage for the procedure. The measure does allow exceptions for cases of rape, incest or if a mother’s life is at risk.”