California voters will decide in November whether to amend the state constitution to protect abortion and contraception, a move that has taken on even greater urgency following Friday’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
The proposed amendment needed two-thirds approval from both houses to qualify for the ballot. It had been up against a Thursday deadline when the state Assembly gave it final approval — just days after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling.
"We must preserve the fundamental reproductive rights of women here in California because they are under attack," Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) said to his colleagues on the Assembly floor.
Joining Democrats in passing the measure was Suzette Martinez Valladares, a Santa Clarita Republican who faces a tough re-election bid this year. The lawmaker released a statement after the vote saying, "While I am personally pro-life with exceptions, I believe that voters should have a choice in deciding this issue in November."
The draft U.S. Supreme Court decision that POLITICO published in May set in motion the measure from legislative leaders. It will ask voters to change the California Constitution to declare that “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.”
California has long been trying to shore up access to abortion, both for residents and people coming from outside the state for care. Lawmakers have introduced more than a dozen pieces of abortion-related legislation since January, including proposals to help people from other states who are seeking abortions in California.
On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill 1666 from Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda), which shields which shields abortion clinicians and patients from other states’ civil and financial penalties related to abortion. That law took effect immediately.
Privacy rights already embedded in the state Constitution have been widely interpreted as protecting the right to abortion, but Democratic leaders and reproductive rights proponents said they wanted to avoid any ambiguity.
Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), one of the proposal's co-authors, said California needs to ensure that anyone who needs abortion services can obtain them. "If the last 72 hours has taught us anything, it is that we can't assume a right we've had for 50 years will be available for us in the future," she said.
Jeremy B. White contributed to this report.