The right to an abortion and the use or refusal of contraception would be enshrined in the California Constitution under an amendment proposed by Democratic legislature leaders on Wednesday, preventing a hypothetical Supreme Court ruling that would overturn federal abortion protections.
Lawmakers are working quickly to get the amendment on the November ballot, which would undoubtedly boost voter turnout on all sides of the abortion debate.
The amendment was announced the day after the California primary election, which saw a low voter turnout.
All conservative states, including Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, and West Virginia, have amended their constitutions to declare abortion to be a protected right.
Meanwhile, at least some abortion rights are protected by law in more than a dozen states, including California, where lawmakers want to extend rights even farther into pregnancy and cover contraception as well.
Vermont voters will approve an amendment in November that guarantees personal reproductive autonomy but does not include the term “abortion” and allows for an exemption if a compelling State interest can be achieved with the least amount of effort.
California’s plan goes a step further in terms of contraception.
According to some conservatives, if the Supreme Court overturns federal abortion protections, conservative organisations may advocate for a contraceptive ban.
Sen. Toni Atkins, a Democrat and president pro tempore of the California Senate, said in a statement that history has taught us that human rights must be written into the constitution so that no one can violate them, and that today is one of those historic occasions.
The state constitution protects abortion, according to the California Supreme Court, but Democrats’ latest proposal would add an amendment to the state constitution that explicitly defines the practice as a right.
The right to privacy was enshrined in California’s constitution by voters in 1972.
A year later, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion is protected by the Constitution’s implicit right to privacy.
The United States Supreme Court is currently considering Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
The constitutional amendment is one of 13 initiatives submitted by California Democrats this year to make the state a safe haven for pregnant women who live in areas where abortion may soon be prohibited or severely limited if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court.
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All of the legislation has passed one house of Congress and are expected to become law later this year.
The amendment requires two-thirds ratification in both the Senate and the Assembly, a task that Democrats should easily accomplish given their strong majority in both chambers.
Legislators must act quickly, though, because the deadline for placing the issue on the November ballot is June 30. The next step will be considered by the people.