California Democrats are about to make abortion a constitutional right

Josue Torres
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Under an amendment presented Wednesday by Democratic legislative leaders, the right to an abortion and the use or refusal of contraception would be entrenched in the California Constitution, thwarting a potential Supreme Court ruling removing federal abortion safeguards.

Lawmakers are working rapidly to get the amendment on the November ballot, which would certainly increase voter participation on both sides of the abortion issue.

The amendment was announced the day after a poor turnout in the California primary election.

Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, and West Virginia, all conservative states, have changed their constitutions to proclaim abortion is not a protected right.

Meanwhile, at least some abortion protections are enshrined in law in more than a dozen states, including California, where politicians aim to expand rights even farther into pregnancy and include contraception as well.

In November, Vermont voters will adopt an amendment that protects personal reproductive autonomy, but does not contain the term “abortion” and allow for an exemption supported by a compelling State interest attained by the least restrictive means.

The clause on contraception in California’s plan goes a step further.

Conservative organizations may fight for a contraception ban if the Supreme Court overturns federal abortion safeguards, according to some.

In a statement, Sen. Toni Atkins, a Democrat and president pro tempore of the California Senate, said history has taught us that human rights must be established in the constitution so that no one can infringe upon them, naming this as one of those historic moments.

The California Supreme Court declared in 1969 that abortion is protected by the state constitution, but Democrats’ latest plan would add an amendment to the state constitution that clearly lists the practice as a right.

California voters placed the right to privacy in the constitution in 1972.

The United States Supreme Court concluded in Roe v. Wade a year later that a woman’s right to choose an abortion is protected by the implicit right to privacy guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

Mississippi’s restriction on most abortions beyond 15 weeks of pregnancy is being considered by the United States Supreme Court.

The constitutional amendment is one of 13 bills introduced by California Democrats this year to make the state a safe haven for pregnant women who reside in places where abortion may soon be illegal or severely limited if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

All of the bills have cleared at least one house of Congress, putting them on pace to become law later this year.

The amendment needs two-thirds approval in both the Senate and the Assembly, a hurdle that Democrats should easily clear given they control both chambers by large numbers.

However, lawmakers must move swiftly since the deadline for placing the issue on the November ballot is June 30.

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