Sen. Toni Atkins
Sen. Toni Atkins speaks at a legislative event. Courtesy of the senator’s office

Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins from San Diego and her colleagues in the Legislature introduced a state constitutional amendment Wednesday to protect abortion and contraceptive rights in California.

Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon introduced Senate Constitutional Amendment 10 in partnership with Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and the National Abortion Rights Action League.

Committee hearings begin next week, and if approved in both houses of the Legislature by June 30, the amendment will be placed on the November ballot. It will require a two-thirds majority vote to become law.

The action comes as a pending U.S. Supreme Court decision is likely to end federal protection for abortion that has been in place for nearly 50 years under the Roe v. Wade decision. That likelihood has encouraged some conservative politicians to propose a ban on contraceptives as well as abortion.

“Too many times, history has shown us that human rights must be enshrined in the constitution so that no one can infringe upon them. This is one such historic moment, and it must be met with a historic response,” said Atkins.

“It is our duty as legislators to fight for the people of California and their right to make decisions about their own bodies and access critical health care,” she said. “This constitutional amendment is the additional armor we need for that battle.”

The constitutional amendment was jointly authored by Rendon with contributions from numerous legislators in both houses.

“Recent events have shown us that we must take every measure imaginable to ensure the right to abortion remains possible in California. No judge, or politician, should be able to rob people of their power to control their own bodies, their own lives, their own futures,” said Jodi Hicks, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood in California.

Assemblymember Cristina Garcia of Bell Bardens warned that a constitutional amendment is needed to protect the state’s most vulnerable women.

“The reality is that overturning Roe will not stop abortions but rather lead to unsafe and deadly abortions for our most vulnerable communities, communities of color, low-income communities, trans, and other marginalized communities across the United States,” said Garcia, who is chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus.

California has a history of leadership in protecting reproductive freedom and providing reproductive services to women, pregnant people, and families.

In 1967 Gov. Ronald Reagan signed a law liberalizing abortions. And in 1969, the state Supreme Court held that Californians have the fundamental constitutional right to procreative choice.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.