Californians will decide on an amendment to provide a right to abortion and contraceptives in November

On June 27, the California State Assembly voted 58-16 on a constitutional amendment providing that “The state shall not deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions …” Voters will decide on the measure in November.

The amendment was introduced following the leak of a draft majority opinion for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on May 2. In announcing the amendment, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said, “We are proposing an amendment to enshrine the right to choose in the California constitution. We can’t trust SCOTUS to protect the right to abortion, so we’ll do it ourselves. Women will remain protected here.”

The amendment states: “The state shall not deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions, which includes their fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives.”

Currently, abortion is legal in California up to fetal viability and after viability if the procedure is necessary to protect the life or health of the mother.

On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case Dobbs, which held that “The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.”

Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D), one of the sponsors of the amendment, tweeted, “In light of the #DobbsVJackson decision, the need to explicitly protect access to #abortion and contraception is stronger than ever. I thank my @AssemblyDems colleagues for passing #SCA10 today and enabling the voters to enshrine #reproductiverights in our state constitution.”

The California Conference of Catholic Bishops opposes the amendment. They said, “We challenge lawmakers to provide equitable assistance and commit new funding and resources for maternity and childcare. California needs to be a sanctuary for women, children, and families struggling to thrive in our state over those seeking abortions. It’s time to reverse the state’s priorities.”

California is the fifth state to have a ballot measure related to abortion on its ballot in 2022. Vermont voters are deciding on an amendment in November that would provide that an “individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course …”

Voters in Kansas and Kentucky will be deciding on similar constitutional amendments that would state that nothing in their respective state constitutions provides a right to abortion or requires government funding for abortion. In Montana, voters will decide on a law to require medical care to be provided to infants born alive and convict healthcare providers that do not provide care with a felony.

California ballots have featured three ballot measures related to abortion in 2005, 2006, and 2008. All three were related to parental notification before an abortion could be performed on an unemancipated minor. All three were defeated.

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