‘We are not there yet’: State legislature passes constitutional amendment to codify right to abortion

photo of ballot box
Brian Bi/Staff
Following the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, the California state legislature passed a constitutional amendment protecting the right to abortion and contraceptives, which will appear on the ballot in November.

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The California State Assembly passed a constitutional amendment that makes the right to abortion and contraceptives explicit Monday, according to a state Senate press release.

The amendment, referred to as SCA 10, was introduced by state Senate President Pro Temp Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, according to the press release. SCA 10 will now be added to the November 2022 ballot, when state voters will decide whether to codify into law.

According to a prior press release, the amendment was announced early June on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, which set the legal precedent for the right to abortion for 50 years. The decision was originally leaked May 2022.

“In California, the right to privacy has meant abortion, but we need to be sure,”Atkins said in a media call Friday, following the overturning of Roe on the same day. “We lose control when cases are taken to the courts, and so, it is necessary to enshrine abortion into the Constitution, and the right to have or refuse use of contraception.”

The amendment prohibits the state from interfering with an individual’s “right to choose to have an abortion and to choose or refuse contraceptives,” according to the amendment’s language.

SCA 10 is not the only measure aiming to address reproductive rights in the state, tagging along legislation introduced by the California Legislative Women’s Caucus that aims to protect abortion and a 2022 budget agreement by CA Gov. Gavin Newsom tailored towards funding reproductive health services, according to the press release. The budget will be finalized and voted on later this week.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín commented on the city’s existing abortion access resolutions and statewide amendment.

“Last week’s ruling was a dark day for America, eliminating a constitutional right to abortion and disproportionately impacting those who are low-income and people of color,” Arreguín said in an email. “We remain firm in our commitment to support the right to choose, and are in full support of a statewide constitutional amendment to codify this human right.”

While SCA 10 and supporting legislation is a recognition of reproductive rights, Bay Area Rise Up 4 for Abortion Rights activist Reiko Redmonde noted that taking to the streets is needed to make change.

Redmonde said the amendment may hopefully spur even more protest and send a broader message to codify abortion rights federally.

“Just because abortions are legal in California, it does not mean that people … with some power in different governments or institutional positions will not try and feel like they have a sort of a mandate to take their own action,” Redmonde said. “People have to be vigilant in California.  The potential is there but we are not there yet.”

Contact Ananya Rupanagunta at [email protected], and follow them on Twitter at @arupanagunta.