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California Legislature Moving Quickly On Abortion Amendment

California Legislature Moving Quickly On Abortion Amendment

California’s Democratic Governor, Gavin Newsom, promised to make his state a sanctuary for anyone seeking an abortion or other reproductive healthcare if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. In a major step to deliver on that promise, California Democrats have moved quickly to ensure the state’s progressive voters have a chance to make abortion a constitutional right in the nation’s most populous state when they vote in November.

A proposed amendment to the California Constitution that would explicitly ban the state from denying or interfering with abortions or contraceptives cleared two legislative committees in a single day on Tuesday, an unusually fast pace for a State Legislature that has been known to take up to two years to move a bill through the correct channels.

Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Lawmakers are moving so fast because they need voters to approve the amendment before it can become law. The soonest voters could do that is November, but for that to happen the amendment must clear the state Legislature by a two-thirds vote before the end of the month. If it does make it to the ballot this year, it has a good chance of passing. Among likely voters, 76% oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, according to an April survey by the Public Policy Institute of California.

California already has some of the most expansive abortion laws in the country. The state uses tax dollars to pay for abortions of people on its Medicaid program, requires private insurance companies to cover the procedures without charging a co-pay or a deductible, and allows minors to get abortions without their parent’s permission.

The amendment says the state “shall not deny or interfere” with people’s “fundamental right to choose” to have abortions. Opponents warned that the wording was “so broad that it would permit abortions” even after the viability of a fetus, which California currently only allows if the life or health of the mother is in danger. But Gov.Newsom and the Democrats in charge of the state Legislature are worried their state constitution’s right to privacy might not be enough to protect abortion in the future should the political winds change and usher in new leadership in the state.

“I want to know for sure that that right is protected,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins, a Democrat from San Diego. “We are protecting ourselves from future courts and future politicians.”

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