News media predictably soft-peddles California's Abortion Proposition 1

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on November 7, 2022

There are two major subjects of political contention in America that the news media continuously gets wrong because of its ideological bubble: guns and abortion. In response to the Dobbs decision, California liberals have proposed an amendment to the state constitution that proponents argue is simultaneously necessary to preserve the "right" to an abortion and really doesn't do anything at all.

The text of the change, while difficult to find on the California Secretary of State's site, is short and, despite supporters' claims, expansive.

SEC. 1.1. 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. This section is intended to further the constitutional right to privacy guaranteed by Section 1, and the constitutional right to not be denied equal protection guaranteed by Section 7. Nothing herein narrows or limits the right to privacy or equal protection.

One suspects that California's elected officials would expect courts and lawmakers to respect the "shall not" text of the addition to the state constitution to restrict infringements on abortion more stringently than the regularly do when it comes to the "shall not be infringed" text of the federal 2nd Amendment.

What was Roe and what did it do?

Roe v. Wade and its progeny did more than just create a "right" to abortion. The original Roe decision created the s0-called trimester framework and allowed governments to put more restrictions on abortion the further along the pregnancy was. In the first trimester, there could be very little in the way of restrictions. In the second, more. And in the third, even more. (One wonders what the Supreme Court would've done if human pregnancy was a prime number of months long, like 11.)

But follow-0n rulings stated that no restrictions could be made on abortion access if the life or health of the mother was at stake. It's that last term that put the United States in the company of countries like North Korea and China—allowing abortion on demand up until the moment of birth if the woman's "health" was impacted. We are not talking merely physical health. The Supreme Court ruled that "health" can be made determined by putting a variety of words other than just "physical" in front of it, including "familial," "mental," "financial," and others. These exceptions swallow the rule, but it's something that the news media has never honestly explored, because they are uniformly in favor of "abortion rights."

In the run-up to the Dobbs decision, major media touted public support for Roe and occasionally talked about the semester framework that was legally and functionally non-existent. More in-depth polling over the years has found strong support for banning abortions (with exceptions for the mother's life, physical health or severe fetal abnormalities) after viability, but the vast majority of those who regarded themselves as didn't realize that their preferred policy was barred by Supreme Court precedent.

Third trimester abortions don't really happen, do they?

Well, they do, and they're not just because a severe fetal abnormality is discovered, or the woman develops a severe physical problem. In the third trimester, when a child can likely survive outside the womb, if a woman's physical health is threatened, the solution is to deliver the child early, not abortion.

When you see pro-life advocates and doctors say that abortion is "never medically necessary" this is what they're talking about. They're talking about elective abortions, not ectopic pregnancies.

But despite these widespread beliefs about what prompts late-term abortion, it's not often for medical reasons. In fact, a study by Planned Parenthood's own Guttmacher Institute reveals that medical issues don't even show up in the list of reasons.

Reasons for Late Term Abortion

Last summer, I got into an argument with a friend who is as liberal as I am conservative on most issues. When asked where she would draw the line on elective abortion, she placed the line at viability which she pegged at 24 weeks. As medical innovations move the viability line earlier in the pregnancy, she may have to revisit that issue, since she finds 15 week bans—the standard in much of "civilized" Europe—too early.

But her more impassioned response was that women aren't getting late-term abortions on a whim. She firmly believes that late term abortions only happen for severe medical complications, either for the mother or the child. "Do you think women are actually carrying a child that long and then aborting them on a whim?" she asked me repeatedly. Certainly most well-adjusted women are not, but as the table above demonstrates, there are a non-trivial number who are.

And if late term abortions for other than medical reasons aren't happening, then it shouldn't really be an issue to ban them in law.

The news media gets it wrong

And here's where the news media continues to get it wrong in their service to the radical left on the issue. Back in April, the frauds at Politifact attached a "False" ruling to Facebook posts highlighting a Colorado law called the Reproductive Health Equity Act.

The text of the claim: "Colorado Governor Jared Polis has just signed into law a bill legalizing abortions through all nine months, up until the moment of birth."

Their headline and short summary:

Savvy readers will realize that the second bullet point is irrelevant to the question of whether the law allows abortions later in pregnancy. It's rare, so what? Mass public shootings with so-called "assault weapons" are also statistically very rare, but you'll never see gun control groups abandon their efforts to ban those weapons because they're so "rare."

If you read into the article itself, you find evidence that, were Politifact an honest broker, their ruling would've been "True."

Colorado’s law protects the right to have an abortion and does not make distinctions or regulations around a time or stage during pregnancy.

So, yes, Colorado law does "allow" abortions up until birth, because there's no "regulations around a time or stage during pregnancy."

Proposition 1: California's extreme abortion amendment

Non-profit journalism site CalMatters goes with the appeal to authority to claim that the state's Proposition 1 won't have a similar impact on California's already weak laws on abortion.

The CalMatters article, like just about every mainstream media article before it, ignores that the current state of California law is already the equivalent to abortion-on-demand regardless of the stage of the pregnancy. The concern among Prop. 1 opponents is that enshrining the "right" to abortion in the state's constitution effectively prevents any widely popular potential restrictions on abortion from ever being passed by the state's electorate.

While "legal experts" (read: lawyers that CalMatters agrees with) contend Prop. 1 wouldn't have an effect on post-viability abortions, that's not what Gov. Gavin Newsom believed when they were writing the proposition, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Newsom has publicly urged voters to approve an initiative on Tuesday's ballot to amend the state constitution to guarantee abortion rights. During negotiations when it was being written, however, his staff pushed legislators to limit the amendment to specifically exclude abortions past the point of fetal viability, people familiar with the talks said.

This also isn't the opinion of abortionist Forrest Smith, who sees Prop. 1 for what it is, and that's what the extreme pro-abortion left would like it to be.

The Associated Press has also gotten into the act, again trusting their preferred legal experts. Once upon a time, journalists were a little more skeptical. Like the Politifact "fact check" above, there's an effort to read into the plain text things that just aren't there—limitations on post-viability abortions that one can almost guarantee these same law professors will analyze in the opposite way should Prop. 1 become constitutional law.

Mary Ziegler, a professor who studies reproductive rights and health care law at the University of California, Davis law school, gave a similar assessment.

The amendment “doesn’t say the word ‘viability,’ so there’s no crystal clear thing saying you can 100% constitutionally ban abortion after viability,” Ziegler said. “But to go from that to, ‘and therefore, you can have an abortion until the moment of birth,’ is just, I think, a misreading of how constitutional rights usually work.”

Really?!

The very next sentence in the AP article is the same smokescreen used by Politifact and every other mainstream journalism outlet.

Abortions that occur late in pregnancy are very rare and typically are performed if the fetus has a low probability of survival. By the time a woman is in labor, the decision has been made to give birth, medical experts have previously told the AP.

Of course, all of these analyses are belied by the fact that Newsom (NEWSOM!) wanted a fetal viability limit put into the proposition because otherwise he thought it was too extreme.

And I love this one, again from the AP article:

The Legislative Analyst’s Office conducted a nonpartisan analysis of the ballot measure and found that it would have “no direct fiscal effect” on the state budget. The analyst’s office also noted in its analysis that how a court might interpret the proposition to expand reproductive rights beyond existing law is unclear in the ballot measure. [emphasis added]

If we're just codifying the status quo, then why is anyone even raising that possibility?

Once again, the mainstream media deceives the public for partisan ends. Vote "No" on Prop. 1.

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