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West Virginia, Alabama and Oregon are tackling the unsettling realities of Roe v. Wade


Once upon a time, it was legal to separate children by race in schools; it was legal to hold Japanese Americans in internment camps; and it was legal, even constitutional, to deny women the right to vote. The Supreme Court said so. Which brings us to a precedent for legal abortion found in the cases of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton that changed the way people could engage on behalf of mothers and their pre-born children. When seven Supreme Court Justices wiped out the laws of every state to replace the will of the people with their point of view, abortion became legal in the U.S. through all nine months of pregnancy. 

Legal isn’t the same thing as right, which is something pro-life Americans have known from day one. We’ve worked for and believed in a reversal of Roe that would send the issue of abortion back to the states and to the voters. And as three ballot initiatives in the midterms indicate, more and more voters are getting ready for the day Roe takes its place as historical footnote.

{mosads}In West Virginia, Alabama and Oregon, state leaders have three different approaches to how the voters in their states may want to handle the abortion issue.

In my home state of West Virginia, an amendment to the state Constitution reads, “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.” 

This effort is direct in creating a state constitutional environment in which voters can refuse to participate with the deadly abortion industry and makes it clear that no shadow right to abortion can be found by reading between the lines. Some think the pro-life measure may also be a factor in voter turnout in West Virginia’s closely watched race for Senate.

Interestingly the language on the ballot is the same as the 2014 Tennessee constitutional amendment that survived legal challenge when the Supreme Court declined to continue the fighting over the will of the Volunteer State voters. 

Alabama’s effort highlights the unborn child, with an effort to protect life by enshrining “the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life.”

Bill sponsor state Rep. Matt Fridy (R-Ala.) spoke with reporters about his vision of being prepared should Roe come to and end, saying, “We want to make sure that at a state level, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, that the Alabama Constitution cannot be used as a mechanism by which to claim that there is a right to abortion.”

The pro-life community in Oregon focused on what is often common ground for pro-life and pro-choice voters — the money. 

After six years of effort, Oregon voters will finally get to decide whether they want Hyde Amendment limitations on abortion spending (prohibiting funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother). Oregon Measure 106 reads in part, “The state shall not spend public funds for any abortion, except when medically necessary or as may be required by federal law.”

In the strongly abortion-supporting environment that is Oregon, the effort is believed to be a long shot. But pro-life advocates are looking to build consensus beginning with the pocket book. During the debate over ObamaCare, a Quinnipiac poll found that more than 7 in 10 Americans — self-described as pro-life or pro-choice — said they did not want their tax dollars to pay for abortions. That could be true in Oregon.  

One day Roe v. Wade will be reversed, as differing points of view on abortion advance to the highest court in the land. Citizens will be able to vote their views on abortion because settled law can become unsettled when people rethink the conventional wisdom.

We learned this in Endo v. the United States that addressed the wrongs against Japanese Americans, in Brown v. Board of Education that made a change from separate but equal to all our children learning together and in the 19th Amendment to the Constitution that allowed women like me to vote. 

Guttmacher Institute notes that should Roe be reversed, many states already have plans in place to limit abortion — with more on the way as the current ballot initiatives illustrate. The voters of the 50 states will bring their unique approach to life over time, sometimes disagreeing with each other, but it’s time for the people of the United States to have a voice on the issue of abortion.

Kristan Hawkins is the president of Students for Life of America, which has more than 1,200 chapters on college and high school campuses in all 50 states. Follow her on Twitter: @KristanHawkins


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