California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., on March 16, 2023. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo)
With hundreds of bills on his desk awaiting review, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed nine pieces of legislation in September—eight on Sept. 27—increasing access to information and services related to reproductive health and abortions.
While signing the bills, the governor noted that such laws were necessary given the move by some states to restrict abortions.
“Radical politicians continue their all-out assault on women’s health care with dangerous and deadly consequences,” Mr. Newsom said in a press release announcing his decisions. “The right to an abortion is enshrined in California’s Constitution. We will continue to protect women and health care workers who are seeking and providing basic care.”
Three new laws specifically address allowing residents of states with restrictive guidelines to access education and medical services in California.
Senate Bill 345
, authored by Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), is designed to strengthen protections for medical professionals disciplined in other states for providing abortions or other reproductive care services.
Critics were opposed to the measure for a number of reasons, including a provision that repeals existing law requiring parental consent before an abortion is performed on a minor.
Another provision expands the definition of exemptions to murder to include a pregnant woman who commits an act causing the death of her fetus—while prior law only exempted those aiding or assisting.
The author celebrated the signing of her bill and others, suggesting that such are necessary to protect the rights of patients and medical professionals.
“As abortions, contraception, and other essential health care continue to be criminalized across the country, California is not backing down,” Ms. Skinner said in the same press release. “These bills further strengthen and expand California’s legal protections for patients, doctors, nurses and everyone involved in providing and dispensing reproductive and gender-affirming care.”
Sen. Toni Atkins’s (D-San Diego) Senate Bill 487
provides Medi-Cal access protections for providers disciplined in another state for providing such reproductive health care services by allowing the state board to scrutinize other states’ decisions based on existing California law.
Assembly Bill 1707
, authored by Assemblywoman Blanca Pacheco (D-Downey), prohibits the state board from denying applications from providers and facilities based on other state’s disciplinary actions related to abortion and “gender-affirming care” services.
Two Assembly bills signed were related to protecting reproductive health information, with one specifying guidelines for web applications, while the other strengthened medical record protections for those traveling to California for abortions or other related services.
Now, insurers are prohibited from denying malpractice coverage to providers based on services that are legal in California but illegal in other states, because of Assembly Bill 571
, authored by Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach).
Pro-life and pro-abortion activists hold signs with opposing views during the 50th annual March for Life rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on Jan. 20, 2023. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Assembly Bill 1720
, authored by Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) is designed to protect patients by limiting ultrasound and imaging services to licensed facilities and healthcare providers.
In efforts to expand the related workforce, Assemblywoman Stephanie Nguyen’s (D-Elk) Assembly Bill 1646
allows for more training for providers denied the opportunity in their home states.
Senate Bill 385
, also introduced by Ms. Atkins, would facilitate more abortion procedures in the state by allowing trained physician assistants to perform such operations.
Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Mr. Newsom’s wife, said the bills represent an opportunity to offer safeguards to patients while setting a standard for national policy in expanding access to abortion.
“While California has institutionalized nation-leading protections for women, birthing people, and providers, we cannot become complacent in our work to combat extremists’ outright assaults on women and our reproductive agency,” Ms. Siebel Newsom said. “The policies affirmed today are emblematic of California’s ongoing commitment to serve as a safe haven for those seeking reproductive care.”
One group supporting the efforts said such bills are relevant and necessary given the growing divide across the country regarding abortion policies.
“As more states enact extreme and harmful abortion restrictions, California continues to lead the way in pioneering innovative policies to protect and expand access to the full spectrum of sexual and reproductive health care,” the California Future of Abortion Council said in the same press release. “The bills signed today not only strengthen legal protections for people seeking or providing abortion and gender-affirming care but include crucial reforms to improve accessibility and affordability of services for all who need them.”
Opponents argued that such regulations could be in violation of constitutional law by impeding other states’ legislative processes.
“The Legislature is overstepping and engaging in ideological colonization against states and citizens that do not want abortion,” the California Catholic Conference—a religious advocacy group based in Sacramento—wrote in the Senate analysis for SB 345. “Denying the legitimate interest of other states to protect unborn children and public health is a dangerous precedent. By explicitly contravening the U.S. Constitution, this bill could prompt other states to selectively decide to ignore laws duly enacted by the California Legislature.”