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Californians to vote on enshrining abortion rights in state constitution after Roe's reversal

California state capitol building
California state capitol building in Sacramento, California. |

California voters will have a chance this fall to decide whether to codify abortion rights in the state constitution.

The Democrat-led California legislature passed an amendment Monday that will put the issue to voters in November following last week's historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion a national right. 

Under Senate Constitutional Amendment 10, authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins of San Diego, voters will decide if they should enshrine California's "reproductive rights." According to the amendment, "reproductive rights" "includes [the] fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and [the] fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives."

Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and NARAL Pro-Choice California are the primary co-sponsors of SCA 10, which passed both houses with a two-thirds majority vote, allowing the amendment to qualify for the November ballot.

Shortly after SCA 10's passing, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order limiting the sharing of patient records and data by state agencies with other states seeking to take criminal or civil action against individuals for facilitating or receiving an abortion. 

"California will not back down from the fight to protect abortion rights as more than half the states in this country, enabled by the Supreme Court, ban or severely restrict access," Newsom said. "We are ensuring Californians will have the opportunity this November to enshrine the right to choose in our state constitution."

Calling the Dobbs v. Jackson's Women's Health Organization decision a "dark day," Atkins said "abortion is health care, and should be a private discussion between a patient and their health care provider." 

"When politicians and judges force themselves into that room, safety goes out the window," Atkins asserted. 

Following the Supreme Court's decision last Friday, Newsom signed AB 1666, limiting California's exposure to civil liability for anyone in the state "providing, aiding, or receiving" an abortion.

Newsom joined his counterparts in Washington and Oregon in a multi-state pact to make those states a "safe haven for all people seeking abortions and other reproductive health care services in these states."

Under California law, the "state shall not deny or interfere with a woman's fundamental right to choose to bear a child or to choose to obtain an abortion" except when a physician believes "there is a reasonable likelihood of the fetus' sustained survival outside the uterus without the application of extraordinary medical measures."

A UCLA study released this month estimated that as many as 16,000 more Americans will travel to California specifically to receive abortion services after the Dobbs ruling triggered laws in several states banning the procedure.

The study forecasts that white, college-educated Americans with "greater resources" are more likely to make the trip, as well as those aged 17 and under, particularly those hailing from states where parental consent is required by law.

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