By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN
The California Legislature this week passed about a dozen bills in what proponents call a “historic” legislative package to protect and expand abortion access in the state, as its Democratic leaders seek to make California a “reproductive freedom” state.
Lawmakers approved the bills in the final days of their legislative session, which ended Wednesday. The legislation now goes to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has been supportive of abortion rights, for his signature.
Newsom has vowed to keep California as a safe haven for abortion seekers, as several Republican-led states have banned or severely restricted abortion after the US Supreme Court eliminated the federal right to the procedure.
Following the high court’s ruling in June, Newsom signed a bill that aims to protect abortion providers and patients seeking abortion care in the state from civil action started in another state. “With today’s Supreme Court decision to endanger the health and safety of millions of women across the country, California must do everything it can to protect the fundamental rights of all women — in California and beyond,” he said in a statement at the time.
CNN has reached out to Newsom’s office for comment on the bill package.
Most of the Democratic-sponsored bills were part of a legislative package introduced by the California Legislative Women’s Caucus and backed by the California Future of Abortion Council, a coalition that includes abortion rights advocacy groups.
“We look forward to Governor Newsom continuing to provide and exemplify national leadership when it comes to protecting sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion, by signing this bold and historic bill package into law,” Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California said in a tweet.
Defending against prosecution
A number of the measures in the package seek to protect abortion patients and providers from potential prosecution or penalties brought by states, or civil action originating in states, where abortion is banned. The legislation aims to combat moves by other conservative states — including by lawmakers in Texas, Oklahoma and Idaho — that have sought to allow civil enforcement of abortion restrictions.
One such measure, AB 1242, would prohibit California law enforcement and other specified individuals from assisting or cooperating with other states’ investigations related to abortion if the procedure was lawful under California statutes.
Under the bill, sponsored by California Attorney General Rob Bonta, the state would be barred from arresting someone who provides, supports or obtains an abortion that’s legal in California. It would block tech companies in California from sharing digital reproductive information with out-of-state law enforcement seeking to enforce their abortion ban.
Another measure, AB 2091, aims to protect abortion-related medical information from being disclosed to other states seeking to enforce their abortion bans. And AB 2223 would remove the requirement in state law that a coroner investigate deaths related to self-induced or criminal abortion, and make it so that a coroner’s statements about a fetal death certification could not be used to bring a criminal prosecution or civil action against a person for their pregnancy outcome. It also would prohibit a person from facing civil or criminal liability for getting an abortion or assisting someone in obtaining an abortion.
The latter bill drew fierce opposition, with opponents arguing the provision would hinder law enforcement’s abilities to investigate and prosecute “infanticide” — something bill backers say mischaracterizes the legislation.
Proponents of the measure argue the legislation, which would allow civil actions to be brought against a state actor who interferes with a person’s reproductive rights in California, would protect women from being criminally prosecuted for a miscarriage, abortion, perinatal death, or stillbirth.
Other bills in the legislative package seek to expand access to the procedure, including a proposal that would allow specifically trained nurse practitioners to provide abortions without a physician’s supervision, and another that would prevent an abortion provider from losing or having their license or certification suspended if the abortion was legal under California law.
The California state budget, signed by Newsom in June, had allocated $20 million to the Abortion Practical Support Fund, a public-private fund that provides grants to nonprofit organizations that help Californians who are low-income obtain an abortion.
Lawmakers approved a separate bill that would expand the fund so the grants can be used to help out-of-state residents obtain an abortion in California. Another measure would create a state health website featuring information on California abortion services and connecting people to abortion providers.
Also included in the legislative package: a bill that would allow for grants to providers who provide abortion and contraception services for free or at low cost to low-income patients; a bill that would set up a reproductive health pilot project in Los Angeles County to safeguard patient access; and a bill that would award grants to programs that provide “medically accurate” reproductive education to at risk communities.
Californians will weigh in on the issue of abortion in the coming months, with voters set to consider a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that seeks to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution.
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