California Democrats are proposing amendments to the state’s constitution seeking to codify abortion as a constitutional right for its citizens, a countermove predicated on the expectation that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
One of the proposed amendments—SCA 10—would explicitly ban the state from denying or interfering with abortion procedures or contraceptives. The proposal cleared two legislative committees in a single day on June 14, something that typically takes about two years.
Lawmakers need voters to approve the amendment before it can become law, and for that, SCA 10 needs to clear the state Legislature by a two-thirds majority vote before the end of June.
The proposed constitutional amendment was introduced by state Senate President Pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) in collaboration with Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and the National Abortion Rights Action League California on June 8.
Opposition has mounted after the leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion indicating the conservative majority intended to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Under the decision, all 50 states—including more than two dozen states with full bans on any abortion—have been required to allow the controversial procedure through at least the first trimester of pregnancy under the so-called “viability standard.”
Republicans and pro-life activists have long criticized the decision as an infringement on states’ rights and have worked diligently to have the case overturned.
Twenty-six states may restrict or ban the practice once there is a final ruling, which is expected shortly.
According to the most recently available data from the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion research and policy organization, approximately 132,680 abortions were provided in California in 2017.
Data revealed a 16 percent decline in abortions in the state from 2014 to 2017, but this is expected to change with an influx of pregnant women seeking abortions if the Supreme Court ruling is officially announced.
California would be the preferred destination for about 1.4 million women, mostly from neighboring Arizona, seeking abortions. The state represents about 12 percent of the nation’s total population and 15.4 percent of all abortions performed in the country.
Opponents of the latest proposal are warning that abortions could be performed in the state throughout the entirety of a woman’s pregnancy.
“This constitutional amendment as written will legalize and protect abortion up to the point just prior to delivery,” Kathleen Domingo, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, said to The Associated Press. “It is distressing that so many California legislators would sign their names to legislation that allows the taking of a human life moments before birth.”
With some of the most liberal abortion laws in the country, California uses public funds to pay for the procedure in its Medicaid program and requires private insurance companies to cover abortions without charging a copay or a deductible.
Minors in California can also obtain abortions without the permission of a parent or guardian.
The latest amendment is one of 14 such proposals moving through the state Legislature this year, with Gov. Gavin Newsom pledging $125 million for related legislation in the state’s upcoming budget. Pro-life activists’ efforts failed to halt or slow down the bill, even as hundreds of people rallied outside the state capital to oppose the measure.
The other bills would protect the privacy of patients’ medical records and, like New York’s recent legislation, would prohibit cooperation with out-of-state subpoenas, earmark more funding for abortion facilities, and subsidize abortion expenses.
Pro-life opponents are criticizing state leaders for turning California into a “hub for abortion tourism.”
“The only thing that’s missing are tickets to Disneyland,” said Susan Arnall, vice president of Legal Affairs for the Right to Life League, in an interview with The Mercury News.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.