California could become the first state to explicitly enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution if a Senate bill introduced Wednesday clears the Legislature before the end of the month.
Senate Constitutional Amendment 10 would place a constitutional amendment on the November 2022 ballot asking voters to protect the right to an abortion and contraceptives.
It follows up on the promise made by legislative leaders after Politico obtained and published a U.S. Supreme Court majority draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision protecting the right to abortion.
“It is our duty as legislators to fight for the people of California and their right to make decisions about their own bodies and access critical health care,” Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) said in a statement Wednesday, the morning after the state’s primary elections. “This constitutional amendment is the additional armor we need for that battle.”
California is one of a number of Democratic-led states grappling with how to protect abortion rights in the face of a ruling expected anytime in the few weeks by the high court that would strike down Roe and turn the decisions over abortion rights to the states. In New York, an end-of-session effort to secure abortion rights in the state’s constitution fell short, but efforts in other states, including Vermont and Michigan, are moving forward.
While Vermont was the first state to put a constitutional protection for abortion rights on the ballot, its Proposition 5 does not use the word “abortion.” It instead promises to ensure that every resident “is afforded personal reproductive liberty” and the ability to exercise “personal autonomy,” which has raised concerns about how that could be interpreted.
California’s bill, introduced by the leaders of both houses — Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) — is more explicit. It would change the California Constitution to say “every individual possesses a fundamental right of privacy with respect to personal reproductive decisions and prohibits the state from denying or interfering with a person’s right to choose or obtain an abortion before viability of the fetus, or when the abortion is necessary to protect the life or health of the person.” California’s right to privacy in the state constitution has been interpreted to include abortion, but lawmakers wanted to spell it out.
Democrats hold a supermajority in California’s legislature and could pass the bill without Republican votes. But they are under a tight timeline, as June 30 is the deadline for placing measures on the November ballot.
The measure is supported by Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and co-sponsored by the National Abortion Rights Action League California. It will be heard in policy committees next week.
The constitutional amendment bill will move through the Legislature along with roughly a dozen legislative proposals aimed at expanding and protecting reproductive rights for Californians and others who may need to travel to the state for services. One bill, which will eliminate out-of-pocket costs for abortion in private insurance coverage starting next year, has already been signed into law.
Newsom, who supports the constitutional amendment, has proposed spending more than $125 million in state funds in the coming year for a range of reproductive health purposes. Legislative leaders, who are negotiating with the governor over the budget, have backed those proposals and suggested some additional provisions.
The above comes from a June 8 story in Politico.