West Virginia politicians have made clear they care more about scoring political points than they do about women and families. On Monday, while teachers across the state—most of whom are women—were striking for fair pay, the West Virginia House voted to pass a constitutional amendment that will take away protections for abortion and is aimed at eliminating coverage of abortion for women enrolled in the state Medicaid program who are struggling to make ends meet. The amendment will now be on the ballot in November, when West Virginia voters will have the chance to defeat it.
Then, on Tuesday, when the West Virginia legislature finally voted to give teachers and other state employees a desperately needed 5% pay raise to end the strike, Republican politicians insisted that pay raises would lead to cuts in other programs. Senator Craig Blair specifically claimed that Medicaid would have to be cut.
This effort to pit access to health care against fair wages is unacceptable, as is the effort to take coverage of abortion away from women qualified for Medicaid. Luckily, West Virginia voters can see through these attempts. In a recent survey, sixty-four percent of voters said that debating and passing legislation to end Medicaid coverage of abortion is the wrong issue for the legislature to be spending time on. And 69% agree that regardless of how one feels about abortion, politicians should not be allowed to deny a woman health coverage for it just because she is poor. West Virginians know that everyone should have access to affordable, high quality health care, including abortion.
That is why we are confident West Virginia voters will defeat the amendment that seeks to change the constitution and take away basic rights and health coverage for West Virginia women. West Virginia voters must approve any constitutional amendment and they have already made clear that they don’t think a woman who gets her health coverage through Medicaid should be denied health coverage for abortion. Last weekend, before the House passed the amendment, West Virginians came from across the state to voice their opposition towards politicians who were trying to restrict women’s reproductive autonomy and decision-making. And they will continue to rally support and make sure that the West Virginia constitution is not amended to take rights away from women.
Similarly, Senator Blair may think that he can divide and conquer by pretending that decent wages for teachers has to come at the expense of health care, but he’s wrong. Just as teachers came together to pack lunches to make sure their students wouldn’t go hungry during the strike, West Virginians across the state will rise up to defeat any other proposed cuts to Medicaid, which is supported by an overwhelming majority of the West Virginia public. A 2017 poll conducted by the American Medical Association found that 80% of respondents thought Medicaid funding should either stay the same or be increased, compared to only 12% who thought it should be cut. In fact, the governor has already made assurances that the Medicaid program will not be cut.
West Virginia politicians should get the message—don’t take health care away from women and families.