This November, the first ballot initiative to face California voters will be Proposition 1. This initiative will insert a vague, unbounded, explicit right to any abortion, including third-trimester abortions, into the California Constitution. Given how California law already protects a right to abortion, even most pro-abortion Californians should join in opposing it.
Proposition 1 would amend Article 1 of the California Constitution by outlawing state action “denying or interfering” with the “fundamental right to choose to have an abortion.” Existing California law permits legal abortion until fetal viability, the point when a child could survive a delivery, between 22 and 24 weeks into pregnancy. Following fetal viability, abortion is legal in California if the pregnancy poses a risk to the mother’s health, as judged by a healthcare provider.
Proposition 1 makes no mention of viability or maternal health. It absolutely asserts that the state may not interfere with an individual’s right to choose to have “an” abortion, with no qualification. It is hard to read this text and not think that it is designed to legalize all abortions, including late-term, third-trimester abortions of healthy babies from healthy mothers.
The authors of Proposition 1 have been confused in their messaging about this possible consequence of the initiative. Toni Atkins, the leader of the Democrats in the California State Senate and one of the initiative’s co-authors in the Legislature, tried to run away from it, claiming that Prop 1 does not actually change the practical law-on-the-ground of abortion in California by altering with the health and viability standards.
On the other hand, Dr. Pratima Gupta, one of the doctors involved in drafting the law, explicitly affirmed that “viability” was deliberately left out of the text. She said, “Every pregnancy is individual and it’s a continuum.” The implication is clear: Proposition 1 is intended to give total leeway for third trimester abortions.
It should be noted that third trimester abortions are mostly not chosen for reasons of urgent maternal health or fetal abnormality. According to research from the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute, “[D]ata suggests that most women seeking later terminations are not doing so for reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment.”
As a savvy politician, Atkins is running away from this consequence of the measure because late-term abortion is extremely unpopular. Large majorities of Californians oppose third trimester abortions, with only 13% of Californians in favor.
Pro-life people aren’t the only ones who should oppose Proposition 1. Even Californians who believe in some right to abortion, but not completely unrestricted late-term abortions, should oppose it. It is a reckless attempt to enforce a radically permissive abortion policy that will harm healthcare provision in California and take the lives of fully developed children. California law already protects the right to abortion, and this measure’s language goes beyond even what many of its authors claim to want. Vote no on Proposition 1.