California protects reproductive rights under Proposition 1

On November 8, 2022, California voters overwhelmingly voted Yes on Proposition 1, a ballot measure amending the state’s constitution to create an explicit protection for reproductive freedom.

Abortion and reproductive freedom rights have been a controversial subject and a magnet for political discourse, typically along partisan lines.

In June 2022, the Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, overruled Roe v. Wade and shifted the power to legislate and regulate abortion laws to individual states. Post Dobbs, several states have embarked on legislation focused on either restricting or expanding abortion rights. Kansas, the first state to vote on abortion rights since the the Dobbs ruling, rejected a ballot measure restricting abortion.

Soon after, the California legislature voted to include Proposition 1 on the ballot for the November 2022 election.

Junior Evelyn Zhang said she  is encouraged by the protection of rights that Proposition 1 enshrines in the state constitution and hopes its impact will extend beyond the state of California. 

“This is an important measure for California because it sets an example for other states,” Zhang said. “Ever since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, abortion is now solely determined by states, so state governments wield a lot of power in this scenario.”

Despite the anti-abortion measure being defeated in Kansas, there are only four abortion clinics in the state, leaving the vast majority of the state without easy access to reproductive services. 

According to junior Sarabeth Huang, the passing of Proposition 1 could possibly remediate this issue. 

“Although we probably expected California to be pro-choice, this still has a positive impact as an opportunity for women out of state to travel in and get abortions,” Huang said. “Having access to these resources is very important.”

However, senior Ash Mehta said that for economic reasons, it may still be difficult for people outside California to travel to the state to get an abortion.

“Criminalizing abortion on a state-by-state basis creates socioeconomic disparities; wealthy people will find a way to travel out-of-state for an abortion, whereas people who cannot travel out-of-state will either resort to dangerous, illegal measures, or be forced to give birth,” Mehta said. “That is not even discussing the insane cost of pregnancy and giving birth in the US, let alone the cost of raising a child.”

While unsure of any near term impact of Proposition 1 on Californians, Mehta said they are reassured by the constitutional protection it provides. 

“I would say that there is no way abortion would ever be made illegal in California, but that is probably what someone would have said about Roe v. Wade thirty years ago,” Mehta said. “I think that this adds more protection to abortion rights in California, because we honestly don’t know what California will look like twenty years from now.”

Los Altos Councilmember Kavita Thankha said the Democratic leadership in California was a big reason for why the ballot measure passed. 

“I am heartened that California voters voted to enshrine protections for our right to choose in our State’s Constitution,” Thankha said. “We must continue to uphold reproductive justice and compassionate care in our laws.”

Representatives from the Palo Alto Republican Women Federated declined to comment for this story.