Cementing reproductive rights in the California Constitution

In summary

Proposition 1 is on the November ballot to shore up the rights we are losing at the federal level and to reaffirm the idea that fundamental decisions about reproductive health care should rest with individuals, not government officials.

By Cary Franklin, special for CalMatters

Constitutional attorney Cary Franklin is the McDonald/Wright Professor of Law at the University of California, Los Angeles and faculty director at the Center on Reproductive Health, Law and Policy.

Anti-abortion lawmakers’ quest to deprive pregnant women and their families of the power to make reproductive decisions and give that power to the government leaves us all vulnerable, especially as the June Supreme Court ruling of the United States threatens not only abortion rights, but all rights protected by the right to privacy.

It is important for California to solidify the rights we are losing at the federal level and reaffirm the idea that fundamental decisions about reproductive health care should rest with individuals, not government officials.

That’s why Proposition 1 is on the November ballot.

Prop. 1 will explicitly enshrine protections for abortion and contraception in the California Constitution. Protecting these rights by name will ensure that even in the face of future policy changes in the state legislature or state courts, a person’s basic right to abortion and to use or refuse contraception will be protected in California.

Let’s set the record straight on what the proposal does or does not do. Prop. 1:

  • Secures the right of Californians to decide for themselves if and when to grow their families, and it keeps personal medical decisions where they belong: between patients and their healthcare providers. The explicit enshrinement of these freedoms in the state Constitution will prevent activist judges in the future from asserting that the privacy protections in the California Constitution do not extend to abortion.
  • Amends the California Constitution to “expressly include an individual’s fundamental right to reproductive freedom, which includes the fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and the fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives.” This provision is framed in general terms because that is the nature of constitutional provisions: their purpose is to articulate general principles and identify fundamental rights, allowing legislatures to fill in the details. This is why the criticism from anti-abortion forces that Prop. 1 does not refer to the term “viability” is so misplaced. “Sustainability” is not a term that belongs to the California Constitution. It is not a legal term. It is a medical term, complicated and difficult to define. It’s one of the only issues on which the conservative judges who ruled the case that struck down abortion rights agree with leading medical associations: The court devotes pages in its ruling to attacking the idea that viability is a legally significant line.
  • Preserves the legal protections that Californians value and strongly support. These are the opponents of Prop. 1 who seek radical change. Their ultimate goal is to take personal medical decisions out of the hands of individuals – and the health care institutions, to which they belong – and hand them over to politicians and law enforcement. This is not what Californians want.

After the adoption of Prop. 1, physicians will still be subject to the same standards of medical licensing and professional ethics. The state legislature will still be able to legislate in matters of abortion and contraception.

We want to live in a state where pregnant women can safely access the health care they need, where doctors can practice medicine and help their patients without fear, and where individuals, not the government, have the right to make the most basic and fundamental decisions. on our reproductive life. This is what Prop. 1 guarantees future generations.

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