California voters will have the opportunity to approve or reject a strongly pro-abortion amendment to the state constitution in November. The state’s Catholic bishops said the proposal gives a “boundless scope” to ending the lives of the unborn when human lives should instead be protected “at every age in every stage.”
The proposed amendment “looks to enshrine the most extreme forms of abortion into the California Constitution,” the California Catholic Conference warned in a statement signed by the 12 archbishops and bishops leading the state’s 12 dioceses and archdiocese.
“This constitutional amendment, as written, will legalize and protect abortion up to the point just prior to delivery,” the conference said. “It is distressing that so many California legislators would sign their names to legislation that allows the taking of a human life moments before birth.”
The State Assembly voted for the legislation, known as Senate Constitutional Amendment 10, on June 27 by a margin of 58-16. The Senate passed the amendment bill on June 20 by a 29-7 vote. It does not need the governor’s approval. Voters may approve or reject the amendment on the Nov. 8 state ballot.
The proposed amendment reads: “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.”
The California Catholic Conference was strongly critical.
“We believe in protecting life at every age in every stage,” the bishops’ statement said. “We are extremely troubled by the language in Senate Constitutional Amendment 10, which is so broad and unrestrictive that it would encourage and protect even late-term abortions, which most Californians oppose. We also fear the boundless scope of this proposed amendment, which asserts a new constitutional right to ‘reproductive freedom’ but does not define what that means.”
The Catholic conference said it “vehemently opposes” the amendment. It will be “actively engaged” in opposing the ballot initiative and in “asking the state’s 12 million Catholics to work to raise awareness and vigorous opposition in our dioceses, parishes, and communities.”
Though abortion is a procedure that ends a human life, Roe v. Wade and related Supreme Court precedents required states to legalize abortion. The Dobbs v. Women’s Health decision of 2022 overturned these decisions, allowing individual states to regulate or ban abortion.
California leaders, including Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, have sought to make California a “sanctuary state” for legal abortion.
The proposed California amendment would modify Article I of the California Constitution. Article I presently contains more than 30 sections dealing with individual rights, often restating or implementing freedoms found in the U.S. Constitution
The proposal was introduced after the leak of a draft Supreme Court decision in May.
California Senate President pro tempore Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon were among the joint co-authors of the bill, which was sponsored by abortion provider Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, among others.
“Abortion is health care, and should be a private discussion between a patient and their health care provider,” Atkins said, according to National Public Radio. “When politicians and judges force themselves into that room, safety goes out the window.”
Republican Assembly Leader James Gallagher, a father of four whose twin children were born 10 weeks early, objected that the bill does not restrict late term abortions and would have ignored the unborn twins’ human rights.
“They were alive and they … are people — and our law needs to begin to recognize that,” Gallagher said, according to the Washington Post.
Backers of the proposed amendment say it does not change current state law on fetal viability.
A new budget agreement sets aside more than $200 million in funding for reproductive health services. Newsom signed legislation to eliminate copays for abortions and to broaden abortion access.
The California Catholic Conference lamented the abortion push.
“The sad reality is that California already has some of the most accommodating abortion laws and services in the nation,” the Catholic conference said. “And by providing extensive funding for abortion services without any corresponding equitable funding for pregnant women and mothers, the state exercises a destructive, coercive power in favor of ending innocent lives. Enshrining this amendment’s language into the constitution will extend the danger of coercive abortion to babies with unquestioned viability.”
The California Catholic Conference has put forward on its website a plan for a “Post-Roe” California to oppose abortion and build a “culture that supports and defends every human life.” Its plan, called “We Were Born Ready,” includes advocacy, education, service, and prayer.
The state is already a leading location for abortions. In 2017, about 862,320 abortions were performed in the U.S. as a whole, including 132,680 abortions in California alone, according to the pro-abortion research group the Guttmacher Institute.