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California voters to decide whether to strengthen state’s abortion law

California voters will decide whether to strengthen the state’s abortion protections under Proposition 1, a measure expected to send voters to the polls in November. And that was the crux of the matter, say opponents.

The Democratic-controlled state legislature provided Proposition 1 in response to the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, with lawmakers arguing that the ruling made it clear that Californians need a safety net for their own reproductive health need rights. The sparsely funded opposition campaign argues the measure is simply a ploy by Democratic lawmakers to latch on to a hot topic that will motivate Liberal voters still reeling from the verdict.

If the measure is passed, the state Constitution would specifically state that California cannot deny or interfere with a person’s reproductive choices, including “their fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse birth control.”

The measure, which has a significant lead in a recent opinion poll, follows a tidal wave of politically polarized reactions across the country as conservative states have introduced abortion bans and pushed liberal states to improve access. Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to sign more than a dozen abortion laws passed by the Legislature this year after injecting $200 million into the state budget to expand reproductive services, including for out-of-state residents who are now unable to receive reproductive care.

“California will not back down from the fight to protect abortion rights because more than half of the states in this country, sanctioned by the Supreme Court, ban or severely restrict access,” Newsom said after Proposition 1 was put to the vote. “We’re making sure Californians have the opportunity this November to enshrine the right to vote in our state constitution.”

The state’s constitution currently guarantees an individual’s right to privacy, but does not define what that right encompasses. The California Supreme Court held that the right to privacy includes decisions related to reproductive choices, including whether to have an abortion or use birth control. Lawmakers have also written abortion rights into state statutes, but Proposition 1 supporters said hostile attacks on access to abortion convinced them it wasn’t enough. Laws and court decisions can be changed, supporters say.

Proposal 1 would ensure that abortion protections cannot be changed without voter intervention. However, opponents of the measure have argued that Proposal 1’s language is too broad and does not restrict when abortions can be performed.

Lawmakers put the measure on the ballot by approving Senate Amendment 10, authored by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego). It passed the Senate and Assembly with a two-thirds vote in each House. Most bills only require a simple majority.

Atkins said the measure would “make it undeniably clear that abortion and contraception in California are healthcare and a private matter between a patient and their healthcare provider.”

“I’ve seen what’s at stake when people don’t have access to abortion — real life and real families that are at risk,” Atkins said. “In California, we are committed to protecting women and families, no matter who wields power at the federal level.”

California law permits a woman to have an abortion up to the point where a doctor determines that “there is a reasonable probability that the fetus will survive outside the uterus without the use of extraordinary medical measures.” An abortion can be performed after viability if the procedure is necessary to “protect the life or health of the woman.” These protections apply to anyone who becomes pregnant, including minors who, under state law, may consent to an abortion without the knowledge of either parent.

The exact point of viability is not defined in state law. That decision is left to the doctors, based on “good faith medical judgment.” In most cases, doctors have considered a fetus viable at 24 weeks.

Opponents of the measure say the overly broad language in Proposition 1, which does not mention viability limitations, will override state law and allow abortions into the third trimester. Advocates and legal experts have said that is not the case and that the ballot measure will work with state laws.

“Even pro-choice voters oppose the legalization of late-term abortions, which are taxpayer-funded until birth,” said Karen England, executive director of the conservative group Capitol Resource Institute. “Abortion on demand is not the answer voters are looking for.”

Other opponents point out that if passed, Proposition 1 is of no real use, since it codifies existing laws and precedents, making the measure an expensive waste of time that they say is only there to gain political points or win over Democratic voters To drive ballot boxes and possibly influence tight races for Congress and the Legislature. Opponents argue the measure is likely to be challenged in court, which could jeopardize abortion rights in the state.

According to a poll last month by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, polls on Proposal 1 showed the measure is on track for victory this fall. Seven out of 10 California voters supported the proposed constitutional amendment.

Fundraising was even more one-sided. Atkins’ voting committee has raised more than $7 million over the past two months, while opponents have raised $1,000.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-09-23/no-1-issue-for-california-voters-whether-to-strengthen-states-abortion-law California voters to decide whether to strengthen state’s abortion law

Alley Einstein

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