First published in the July 1 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
California voters in November will be asked to codify abortion protection within the state constitution thanks to actions taken in Sacramento on the cusp of last week’s official strike-down of the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.
The state Assembly on Monday overwhelmingly approved adding the amendment to the constitution, following the state Senate’s approval of the measure, Senate Constitutional Amendment 10, the week prior. With Gov. Gavin Newsom championing the amendment and signing additional protections into effect via executive order, voters now have the final say.
State Sen. Anthony Portantino, a La Cañada Flintridge Democrat who represents South Pasadena, was a principal co-author of the measure, which also calls to enshrine a right to contraception in the California Constitution. Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins introduced the bill, which was also co-authored by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.
Assemblyman Chris Holden, a Pasadena Democrat who represents South Pasadena, signed on as a principal co-author of the Assembly’s bill and voted in favor of it.
“SCA 10 is about establishing explicitly in California’s Constitution what our State Supreme Court has held for more than five decades: the decision to have an abortion is between a patient and their medical provider,” Portantino said in a statement last week, before Roe v. Wade was overturned. “No judge, no politician should be in that room, or making that decision.”
The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday formally ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark 1973 ruling that established the constitutional right to abortion nationwide, and reverted its legality to individual states — many of which had so-called “trigger law” abortion bans that have gone into effect since last week’s decision. Justices Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas — all Republican appointees — voted to overturn the ruling, delivering a political victory that the GOP had sought since the initial case.
A controversial leak of the draft opinion in May galvanized abortion rights supporters and prompted state-level Democrats to begin formally enshrining abortion rights while they had control of their governments. Friday’s ruling was largely anticipated as a result. Newsom’s executive order on Monday prevents patient data and medical records from being provided to outside state agencies investigating an abortion here. He also signed a bill last week that protects the state’s abortion providers from civil liability judgments that come from claims filed in states barring abortion.
California’s amendment perhaps presciently includes protections for contraception. In his concurrence, Justice Thomas stated that other past rulings reached under the principle of substantive due process — including the rights to contraception — should be overturned on similar grounds.
“As the proud father of two daughters, a neighbor and compassionate policy maker, it saddens me to see the well-being of women and girls being misused in a misguided and mean-spirited political agenda,” Portantino stated. “I am proud to serve with Pro Tem Atkins, who proposed this necessary constitutional amendment and I stand as a supporter of this significant women’s health care and civil rights protection.”