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Commentary: Proposition 1 — Moving the line

By Bhavani Kirnak

Soon, California voters will begin to cast their ballots, including a vote on Proposition 1, or Prop 1. 

Although pitched as a constitutional guarantee of a woman’s right to choose, what Prop 1 really does is move the limit of legal abortion from where it is now — at fetal viability — to the end of pregnancy. 

Is this what voters really want?

The language Prop 1 would add to the California Constitution sounds righteous enough:

“The state shall not deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions, which includes their fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives….”

And yet, does this text not remove any and all restrictions on abortion, up to the moment of birth?  Have voters looked at Prop 1 closely enough?

Consider first that Prop 1 is an extreme measure, new territory.  No other state has yet voted on a constitutional amendment to guarantee an unrestrained right to abortion. 

Advocates for Prop 1 argue that elective late term abortion is rare now, and therefore not worth worrying about. 

But it’s illegal now; what will happen if Prop 1 normalizes it? 

Look no further than the recent surge of “smash and grab” robberies following the decriminalization of theft.

Second, California presently protects a woman’s right to choose. Abortion is legal in California up to fetal viability or when the mother’s health is in jeopardy.

The recent Dobbs decision changed nothing in California. 

Viability, generally thought to be around 22-24 weeks or six months, is a stage at which even now a botched legal abortion does occasionally result in a premature live birth.

What will happen when the line is moved several months later? 

At the very least, prior to voting, voters should educate themselves as to what “late term” or “partial birth” abortion means. 

I looked into it.   

In performing an abortion late in pregnancy, there are two options: (1) if still small enough, the fetus is killed in utero and removed vaginally piece by piece; or (2) a delivery is induced during which the child is killed — hence the phrase “partial-birth” abortion.

How exactly the child’s life is terminated is not readily discernable.

A Catholic website provides one description with drawings, whereby the baby’s head emerges, then the baby is killed, optionally by inserting a pair of scissors in the back of the skull, before pulling the now-lifeless body the rest of the way out.

This horrifying description aligns with a “Law and Order” episode that aired years ago.  Perhaps the show’s intent was to provoke a debate by the viewers.

But at the time, I never imagined that such things might actually occur.

There are cases where such a procedure is performed because the baby is already dead or cannot be expected to live, or for some other medical reason. 

Such cases are tragic for all involved.  But these cases are already legal.

They are not part of the Prop 1 decision. 

Prop 1 is being sold as a response to Dobbs, a restoration of Roe, a guarantee that a woman’s right to choose can never be denied in California.

This conclusion is misleading.  Prop 1 is actually an unconditional guarantee of the right to an elective late-term abortion.

Dobbs shifted the debate over where the line should be from the Supreme Court to the voters. 

The debate can’t be avoided, nor can the line.  At some point, if you keep moving it, doesn’t it become something else?   

An overreaction to Dobbs, or trends in red states, isn’t necessary or helpful.  It will open the door to unanticipated tragedies.  It will divide people further and invite a counter-reaction toward the other extreme.

I urge all readers to research, debate, and conclude with me:  NO on Prop 1.

Bhavani Kirnak is an Encinitas resident.

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