IMPORTANT: It's a Serious Matter of Life

California lawmakers rush on constitutional change enshrining abortion protections

Lawmakers hoping to enshrine abortion rights in the California Constitution are fast-tracking a proposal hoping to get it before voters on the ballot this November.

The proposed constitutional amendment would put the right to an abortion and contraceptives explicitly in the state’s constitution by prohibiting the state from “denying or interfering with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions.” The bill states that this includes the right to choose an abortion and to choose or refuse contraceptives.

The measure comes after a leaked draft majority opinion from the Supreme Court revealed that justices could be poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. The 1973 landmark ruling guaranteed constitutional protections for abortion. Fearing this potential overturn, California lawmakers stressed that now is the time to act to ensure Californians have access to abortion and contraceptives for years to come.

“In California, we cannot stand by as women and families are left vulnerable as our highest court moves to strip away our rights and put countless people in harm’s way,” Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, told lawmakers on Tuesday. “We’ve introduced SCA 10 to ensure that the fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and to use contraception is protected in California now and for generations to come.”

Lawmakers are aiming to get the measure on the November ballot to let voters decide, but they are running up against a tight deadline. For the measure to qualify for the ballot, two-thirds of both chambers of the Legislature must approve the measure by the end of the month. Voters must approve the amendment in order for it to become law.

Legislators moved quickly Tuesday to pass the proposed amendment through two policy committees in the Senate.

Opponents of the bill warned Tuesday that the “vague language” and “boundless scope” of the amendment that they fear could legalize abortion up to the point just prior to delivery.

“We are extremely troubled by the language of SCA 10, which is so broad and unrestrictive that it would encourage and protect even late term abortions which most Californians continue to oppose,” Kathleen Domingo, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, said Tuesday. “It is distressing that so many California legislators would sign their names to legislation that allows the taking of a human life moments before birth.”

The constitutional amendment is one of more than a dozen proposals related to reproductive rights and expanding abortion services currently moving through the Legislature.

Experts anticipate that an overturn of Roe v. Wade could lead to thousands of pregnant patients seeking abortion access in other states. The Guttmacher Institute estimates California could see a nearly 3,000% increase in the number of people whose closest abortion provider would be in the Golden State – an increase of 46,000 to 1.4 million people – under a total abortion ban.

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