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Newsom Pledges to Amend California’s Constitution to Enshrine Abortion Rights

Lawmakers in the Golden State have also pledged to make abortion more accessible there for all U.S. residents.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a press conference at the Native American Health Center in Oakland, California, on December 22, 2021.

In the wake of new revelations detailing how the United States Supreme Court’s conservative bloc majority intends to undo abortion protections recognized in the landmark 1973 ruling Roe v. Wade, Democratic lawmakers in California have announced that they intend to not only strengthen abortion rights in state statutes but to also enumerate them within the state constitution.

In a joint statement released after a leaked draft document authored by Justice Samuel Alito was made public Monday night, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), state Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) and state Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) said that “California will not stand idly by as women across America are stripped of their rights and the progress so many have fought for gets erased.”

“California is proposing an amendment to enshrine the right to choose in our state constitution so that there is no doubt as to the right to abortion in this state,” the trio added in their statement.

Saying that they couldn’t “trust the Supreme Court to protect reproductive rights,” the statement from the three lawmakers also promised to “build a firewall around this right” for residents in the state.

In a separate statement he made on his own, Newsom called the draft document from Alito an “appalling attack” on abortion rights. He also warned that the attacks on personal freedoms wouldn’t stop with abortion.

Conservatives on the Supreme Court “are undermining progress, and erasing the civil protections and rights so many have fought for over the last half century,” Newsom said, adding:

I’m furious that my own daughters and sons could grow up in an America that is less free than the one they were born into.

California lawmakers, including Newsom, have promised to step up efforts to make abortion accessible not just for residents of the state but for anyone in the U.S. seeking to have an abortion, should Roe be overturned by the nation’s highest court. Those assurances were made back in December after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’’’s Health, the case that threatens to upend Roe.

Democrats in California are seeking to make the state a “sanctuary” for abortion, and have even proposed covering traveling and lodging costs for individuals who come from out of state for abortion services, if Roe is overturned.

By enumerating the right to an abortion in the state constitution California hopes to make ending or curtailing the human right much more difficult.

California’s constitution can be amended in a number of ways. First, the state legislature itself can propose an amendment, after which it must be approved by a two-thirds majority in both houses. Subsequently, a majority of the state’s voters must also vote in favor of the amendment to the State Constitution in an election.

Another approach would be for California residents to propose constitutional amendments to be voted on through a ballot initiative. If petitioners gather enough signatures – equaling 8 percent or more of the total number of votes cast in the previous gubernatorial election – the measure gets on the ballot for voters to decide on in the next election.

Recent polling suggests that California voters would be open to both amending the constitution to make abortion a permanently recognized right in the state, as well as making California a sanctuary state for abortion services. A Public Policy Institute of California poll from October, for example, found that 79 percent of likely voters in the Golden State did not want to see Roe overturned, while only 20 percent said they did. Moreover, 68 percent of likely voters in California also said they were concerned about other states making it more difficult to obtain an abortion, while only 30 percent of voters said they were worried states were making it too easy to have an abortion.

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