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California moving to protect abortion ‘now and for generations’ after Supreme Court decision

Sacramento Bee logo Sacramento Bee 6/24/2022 Lindsey Holden, The Sacramento Bee
Xenia Vidal, with Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, leads a chant while walking past a line of protesters gathered outside the federal courthouse in downtown Sacramento on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in response to news reports that the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision protecting the right to abortion. © Xavier Mascareñas/The Sacramento Bee/TNS Xenia Vidal, with Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, leads a chant while walking past a line of protesters gathered outside the federal courthouse in downtown Sacramento on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in response to news reports that the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision protecting the right to abortion.

California lawmakers are racing to pass a measure that would ask voters to enshrine abortion rights in state law “now and for generations to come” in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision stripping away federal protections.

Shauna Goodman, of Sacramento, attends the demonstration with her two children outside the federal courthouse in downtown Sacramento on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in response to news reports that the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision protecting the right to abortion. © Xavier Mascareñas/The Sacramento Bee/TNS Shauna Goodman, of Sacramento, attends the demonstration with her two children outside the federal courthouse in downtown Sacramento on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in response to news reports that the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision protecting the right to abortion.

The court on Friday issued its long-awaited 6-3 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health which overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that guaranteed the right to abortion services.

Legislators have been preparing for this moment by rapidly advancing a bill that would add an abortion rights amendment to the state constitution.

In early June, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, introduced Senate Constitutional Amendment 10, which would guarantee Californians’ “fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives.”

Senate President Pro Tem Toni G. Atkins, D-San Diego, discussed adding an abortion rights amendment to the California constitution in early May. A bill to place an amendment on the November general election ballot is moving quickly through the Legislature. © Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee/TNS Senate President Pro Tem Toni G. Atkins, D-San Diego, discussed adding an abortion rights amendment to the California constitution in early May. A bill to place an amendment on the November general election ballot is moving quickly through the Legislature.

The amendment would require approval from two-thirds of legislators before appearing on the general election ballot in November.

Abortion amendment bill moving quickly

Lawmakers must pass SCA 10 by June 30 to ensure voters can consider it in November, and the bill has been moving briskly through the legislative process.

On Monday, the Senate passed SCA 10 by a 29-7 vote, less than two weeks after its introduction on June 8. Last week, the bill passed two committees in a single day.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee advanced the bill during a special meeting on Thursday. Atkins on Friday said the full Assembly will consider SCA 10 on Monday.

While presenting the bill on Thursday, Atkins said California leaders “cannot stand by as women and families are left vulnerable as our highest court moves to strip away our rights and put countless people in harm’s way.”

“Alongside Speaker Rendon and so many of our colleagues, we have introduced SCA 10 to ensure that the fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and to use contraception is protected in California now and for generations to come,” she said.


Video: What Does The SCOTUS Ruling Overturning Roe V. Wade Mean For California? (CBS Sacramento)

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Why does California need an abortion rights amendment?

Californians have had state-protected rights to abortion care for more than 40 years. A 1981 state Supreme Court decision recognized residents’ choices about abortion care fall under their right to privacy, and the 2002 Reproductive Privacy Act included them in state law.

Pregnant people can obtain abortions up to the point of viability, generally 24 to 26 weeks, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights organization.

Post-viability, pregnant people can receive abortion care “only if in the good-faith medical judgment of the physician, the continuation of the pregnancy poses a risk to the woman’s life or health,” according to NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Momentum for a constitutional amendment started to build in early May, when Politico obtained a draft opinion on the Dobbs case that showed a majority of justices poised to dismantle decades of legal precedent on abortion rights.

“Right to privacy, including the right to decide whether to give birth, is tenuous at the federal level,” said an Assembly Judiciary Committee analysis of SCA 10.

Putting an abortion rights amendment in the state constitution “will protect against potential future attacks at the federal level and erosion by the courts in the future,” the analysis said.

Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Mark Stone, D-Monterey Bay, echoed the sentiment during the Thursday hearing.

“We find ourselves in a circumstance I never really would’ve imagined,” Stone said. “Not only is the court seemingly poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, but the court is acting politically. And in their zeal to solve a political question, are potentially overrunning a fairly well-established right that has been interpreted in the constitution: privacy. And I see this measure as really re-establishing this right of privacy.”

Protecting other civil rights

Atkins on Friday also expressed a desire to protect civil rights for other groups that might be impacted by the Supreme Court decision, especially those in the LGBTQ community.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion on Dobbs that suggested the court should reconsider other decisions rooted in the same right-to-privacy arguments as Roe v. Wade.

His opinion included Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision that guaranteed same-sex couples the right to marry.

Atkins said during a press call there is “groundwork being laid to address that issue for us in California.”

“There are already conversations,” Atkins said. “That work already started. Equality California and other groups nationally have done what Planned Parenthood and other abortion advocates started last year with (anti-abortion bills) in Texas and Mississippi. ... But they’re already underway with that legal analysis at work.”

Atkins said California lawmakers have been focusing on abortion rights because they were “under threat directly because of a case that we are aware of,” but legislation could be in the pipeline to address other impacts.

“This is going to be a call to action for those who believe in civil rights for all people,” Atkins said. “The right to have control over your own bodily autonomy. You’re going to see a lot of communities come together. And I think you’re going to see a real reaction, and you’re going to see a lot of activism restart, rekindle and be refueled because of all of this.”

©2022 The Sacramento Bee. Visit sacbee.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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