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California Will Vote on Enshrining Abortion Rights in State’s Constitution

The proposal would prevent far right judges from upending abortion rights in California.

People hold placards as they protest in downtown Los Angeles on June 26, 2022.

California lawmakers advanced a proposal on Monday that sets up a ballot initiative in this fall’s midterm elections, allowing voters to explicitly include the right to obtain an abortion in the state constitution.

The measure was voted on days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned abortion rights protections that had been laid out in the 1973 decision Roe v. Wade. As a result of the High Court’s ruling, individual states are now in charge of determining whether or not abortion rights will be recognized within their jurisdictions.

Around 26 states are implementing or planning to implement bans on abortion. Meanwhile, California and a number of other states are hoping to become sanctuaries where abortion rights are protected — not just for their own residents, but for residents of restrictive states across the country.

The right to an abortion is already recognized in the Golden State, but under a more general right to privacy standard that was established by state courts, similar to what the Supreme Court had asserted in its Roe decision nearly 50 years ago. State legislators passed the constitutional ballot measure — which includes a clear inclusion of abortion rights in its text — in order to ensure that abortion rights cannot be undermined by the whims of far right judges and justices in the future.

“While for now we may feel safe here in California, we cannot rest on our laurels,” state Rep. Sabrina Cervantes said. “It is only a matter of time before this will directly affect you and the people you love.”

“California remains steadfast in the right of individuals to access abortion care. That’s what we explicitly want to make sure continues to be the case, no matter who’s in office, no matter who the judge is,” added state Sen. Toni G. Atkins (D), president pro tempore of the state Senate.

The amendment to be considered by voters says that 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.”

California is not alone in pushing a ballot initiative for voters to consider on abortion rights; an initiative in Vermont is also being forwarded to residents to decide on this fall. However, that measure uses the phrase “personal reproductive autonomy” rather than explicitly saying that abortion rights will be protected

The measure in California is likely to pass, as most of the state’s residents back abortion rights. A Public Policy Institute of California poll back in May showed that more than three-quarters (76 percent) of state residents opposed the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Over the weekend, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill into law that grants additional protections to abortion providers, shielding them from civil liability should residents from states that punish providers obtain an abortion in California.

“California must do everything it can to protect the fundamental rights of all women — in California and beyond,” Newsom said in a statement regarding the law.

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