Earlier this year, we celebrated 49 years of safe and legal abortion with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Unfortunately, we knew that while the Supreme Court was debating a case heard last fall — Dobbs v. Women’s Health Organization of Jackson — it would likely be the last anniversary of the landmark case. The Dobbs result has resulted in desperation, as people across the country seek serious medical care that in many states they can be persecuted for receiving.
As a physician, I see how the patchwork approach to abortion we’re experiencing has led to confusion and hopelessness for many—which is exactly why we need to act in California.
We have always known that abortion bans and restrictions on certain types of health care marginalize the most vulnerable patients and further create a divide between those who can and cannot access life-saving health care.
But in California, where lawmakers have pledged to expand access to reproductive health care, including abortion and contraception, voters have a chance to be heard on the ballot this fall.
California has made a move to protect access to abortion and contraception with Proposition 1, a ballot initiative that would enshrine the right to an abortion directly in the State Constitution, so that a person’s fundamental right to abortion and contraception be protected in California for generations to come.
At its core, Prop 1 ensures the right for Californians to decide when and how to have a family, keeping private medical choices about where to stay — between people and their medical team.
Abortion is health care, and like any other health care decision, these discussions should be based on science, not political agendas. As a family physician, I work with people of all ages, providing the care each person needs for their individual circumstances. Abortion – along with the use or refusal of contraception – should stay in this lane, not be something that governments are deciding.
Proposition 1 would take existing California state law and add it directly to the California State Constitution, giving the right to an abortion the highest protection the state can afford, requiring courts to evaluate each law that interferes with the right to abortion and contraception at the highest level. consideration of whether this right should be challenged in the future.
The ballot specifically states that Prop 1 would “amend the California Constitution to expressly include an individual’s right to reproductive freedom, which includes the fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and the fundamental right to choose or refused contraceptives.This amendment does not abridge or limit existing rights to privacy and equal protection under the California Constitution.
It’s important to dispel the notion that Prop 1 would replace existing law — it wouldn’t. What Proposition 1 would do, however, is guarantee the right to an abortion, which would be left up to the legislature to regulate, just like any constitutional right. Opponents will claim that without specific restrictions on abortion, it can be allowed until the end of pregnancy, and that is simply not the case.
We often hear the word “sustainability” as a term associated with abortion restriction. However, “viability” is much more than just gestational age, and as a medical classification with a fluid definition, it does not belong in the State Constitution. The term involves multiple factors including gestational age, but also includes genetic factors and medical determinations that are best left to a medical provider and their patient.
A recent poll shows that more than two-thirds of voters did not want to see Roe overturned, yet despite overwhelming public opinion, the Supreme Court did just that. Too often we hear that “abortion is safe and protected in California,” but if we’ve learned anything in the past few months, it’s that we can’t be complacent about access to reproductive health care, and that’s exactly why we need Prop 1.
Shannon Connolly, MD is a practicing family physician in Orange County. She is the Associate Medical Director of Primary Care at Melody Health, the primary care arm of Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties.