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Put Two Abortion Questions Before California Voters

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Commentary

The U.S. Supreme Court’s likely overturning of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision has put abortion on the front pages again. The final wording won’t come out until June. But it will likely only return the matter to where it was in 1972—at the discretion of state legislatures.

In California, the law of the land currently is Senate Bill 1301, the Reproductive Privacy Act. It effectively codifies Roe in state law. It was passed in anticipation of Roe possibly being overturned by justices appointed by President George W. Bush. Which seems to be the case 20 years later, as the author of the decision overturning Roe—assuming matters hold as they seem to be now—is Justice Samuel Alito, appointed by that president in 2006.

In response, Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state leaders are saying they want to amend the California Constitution to make it iron-clad that abortion remains legal here. According to NBC Bay Area, “Newsom’s office said its goal is to put the amendment on the ballot this November, though lawmakers will have to act quickly to make that happen. They have to vote on it before the end of June to give state officials enough time to print the ballots.”

A two-thirds vote in both the Senate and the Assembly is needed to put a constitutional amendment before voters. That seems almost certain as Democrats currently wield supermajorities of more than two-thirds in both houses.

However, if that happens, it would be a “heads I win, tails you lose” situation. If the amendment passes, then abortion remains legal and is part of the state constitution. If it loses, then abortion remains legal because SB 1301 would remain in effect.

There isn’t time for the pro-lifers to gather signatures to put an abortion repeal on the November ballot themselves. So to be fair, the legislature should put a second amendment on the ballot, making abortion illegal by repealing both SB 1301 and the 1967 Therapeutic Abortion Act and replacing them with the law as it existed prior 1967. That way, Californians could have a real debate on the controversy—and real decision-making power. It would be a real initiative vote, not a sham.

Explained Gov. Hiram Johnson, who propelled the reforms of 1911, “I do not by any means believe the initiative, the referendum, and the recall are the panacea for all our political ills, yet they do give to the electorate the power of action when desired, and they do place in the hands of the people the means by which they may protect themselves.”

It’s debatable whether this system has made the legislature more irresponsible, because they can just pass the buck to voters; or has allowed citizens to correct the irresponsible actions the legislature would have perpetrated no matter what. In any case, if Roe had not been handed down in 1973, by now California probably would have had several initiatives on abortion, much as we do every few years on taxes, rent control, and the death penalty.

A March PPIC poll (pdf) found 41 percent of likely voters approve “of the way the California Legislature is doing its job,” with 51 percent saying they disapprove. At least that score was better than Californians’ opinion of the U.S. Congress, which among likely voters gained just 24 percent approval to 73 percent disapproval.

With the legislature held in such low regard by voters, the abortion question best should be handled by the voters themselves. With two questions on the ballot, as above.

If just one question is put on the ballot, affirming Roe, it’s guaranteed the issue will crop up again in 2024, with a pro-life constitutional amendment on the ballot entirely repealing all state laws allowing abortion. Both sides of the issue currently are energized. That makes Nov. 8 the time for Dueling Initiatives on the issue. Let the people decide.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

John Seiler

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John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. He has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at JohnSeiler.Substack.com

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