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Catholic leaders call attention to poorly worded California abortion measure

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J-P Mauro - published on 10/14/22

Bishops and critics warn that the phrasing of the ballot measure could leave the door wide open for late-term abortions.

Months after the US Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision to place abortion decisions back in that hands of state governments, California is preparing to vote on a bill that would enshrine abortion in the state’s constitution. While the bill is expected to pass in the historically blue state, critics and Catholic leaders are calling attention to the lack of defined restrictions in the wording of the bill.

Proposition 1

Called Proposition 1, the ballot measure seeks to amend the California constitution to guarantee access to abortion and contraception, as well as the privacy of patients who seek abortions. According to an analysis of the measure, if passed it would merely adjust the state’s constitution to “expressly include existing rights to reproductive freedom—such as the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion and use contraceptives.” 

The wording of the document, however, has left much to be desired. Even the Los Angeles Times, in an article seeking to assuage fears of unrestricted abortion until the time of birth, admits that the document seems to be phrased in “legalese for guaranteeing unrestricted late-term abortions.” San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordelione warns that such fears are legitimate. 


In a September interview with Catholic World Report, Archbishop Cordelione said that the ballot measure could “certainly be interpreted” to allow for late-term abortions. He said: 

“Not only that, reproductive freedom can involve a lot of other things, such as surrogacy. But the proposition, as written, would seem to allow abortion in all nine months of pregnancy up to birth. But it ignores that once conception has taken place, reproduction has already happened.” The prelate added in a later answer, “There is no regulation allowed in the first six months of pregnancy, and during the last trimester, abortion is allowed if there is a threat to the life or health of the mother. This is some limit, but Proposition 1 would lift even that.”

Archbishop Cordelione went on to reiterate the teaching of the Church, that it is “intrinsic evil to intentionally take an innocent human life.” The archbishop asked Catholics to pray a novena to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary for the defeat of Proposition 1, as well as calling for fasting and advocacy on the matter. 


Angelus reports that this novena was held from September 29 to October 7 and drew participants from the faithful across the state, including video messages from California bishops. In his message, Archbishop of Los Angeles José Gomez said: 

“In his eyes, every human life is sacred. It has meaning, purpose, and dignity. Let’s keep working for a California that protects the weak and vulnerable, a California where every human life is considered sacred and is welcome and cherished from conception to natural death.”

The bishops are not the only ones speaking out about the dangers presented by the wording of this bill. Speaking to CNA, Catherine Hadro, media director of California Together, No on Proposition 1 suggested that the bill is “extreme, expensive, and unnecessary”: 

“We all know that Prop 1. means late-term abortion in California up until the moment of birth, even if both mother and baby are healthy. And we all agree that that is too extreme. That is why we are coming together to stop Prop. 1.”

She said that the word “viability” was purposefully left out of the ballot’s phrasing, because only around 13% of California voters support unrestricted legal abortion. Furthermore, when asked to clarify on the restriction of abortion after viability (when the child can survive outside of the womb), lawmakers have declined to respond. Hadro warned that Proposition 1 means “post-viability, late-term abortion without limit paid for by your taxpayer dollars.”

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