News & Analysis

CA Legislature Passes Abortion Constitutional Amendment

California’s legislature has approved a ballot initiative to enshrine abortion and contraceptive rights in the state constitution. Come November, voters will be able to approve or reject an amendment to the state’s constitution as California gears up to become “the nation’s abortion provider.” 

Even before the Roe v. Wade draft decision was leaked in early May, California’s state legislature had preemptively passed a measure through committee to place an amendment to protect abortion on the November ballot. By the time Roe v. Wade was overturned on June 24, California’s Democratic Assemblymembers were ready for the final vote to place the amendment on the ballot, which passed on June 27. 

The amendment, reproduced in full below, would not expand or limit California’s abortion timeline, which typically allows abortions until the fetus is viable outside of the womb; doctors have leeway to make this determination, but the consensus is that viability occurs at roughly 24 weeks. 

“The state shall not deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions, which includes their fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives. This section is intended to further the constitutional right to privacy guaranteed by Section 1, and the constitutional right to not be denied equal protection guaranteed by Section 7. Nothing herein narrows or limits the right to privacy or equal protection.” 

Reflecting on the open-ended wording of the constitutional amendment, Republican Assembly Leader James Gallagher voiced concern about any guardrails regarding late-term abortion — those conducted in the third trimester, when the fetus is typically able to survive outside the womb. 

“It says nothing about late term,” Gallagher said. “It puts no restrictions on it.”

The amendment, which will be on the November 8 ballot, comes as California mobilizes to become what the New York Times describes as “the nation’s abortion provider.” In addition to codifying abortion into California’s constitution and proposing to expand abortion access subsidies, California Democrats passed legislation earlier this year eliminating out-of-pocket costs for insurers and requiring insurers to include abortion coverage. 

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