Newsom signs 13 abortion protection and reproductive health bills

California Gov. Gavin Newsom talks at a news conference with workers and volunteers on Wednesday, May 4, 2022, at a Planned Parenthood office near downtown Los Angeles. Newsom faulted his own political party Wednesday for setbacks in the nation's culture wars and urged Democrats to launch a vocal "counter-offensive" to protect rights from abortion to same-sex marriage. (AP Photo/Michael R. Blood)
Gov. Gavin Newsom talks at a news conference with workers and volunteers at a Planned Parenthood office near downtown Los Angeles in May. (Michael R. Blood / Associated Press)

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed 13 abortion protection and reproductive health bills Tuesday, codifying key parts of California's campaign to counter the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

The newly signed laws also set the stage for a November vote to enshrine abortion rights directly into California's Constitution under Proposition 1.

Newsom's signatures were expected after the governor advocated for many of the measures and come after California launched a publicly funded website this month to make it easier for those seeking to end their pregnancy to find services and financial assistance. The state announced the website — at abortion.ca.gov — the same day that Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina pushed for a nationwide abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy with rare exceptions.

Newsom then began promoting the website on billboards in seven states with the most restrictive abortion bans, telling women living there that California "will defend your right to make decisions about your own health."

“An alarming number of states continue to outlaw abortion and criminalize women, and it’s more important than ever to fight like hell for those who need these essential services," Newsom said in a statement. "We’re doing everything we can to protect people from any retaliation for accessing abortion care while also making it more affordable to get contraceptives."

California officials began preparing a year ago for the potential effects of Roe vs. Wade being overturned, with Newsom asking Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and dozens of other supporters to develop a plan for the state to become a sanctuary for anyone denied abortion services in other parts of the country.

Lawmakers sent Newsom 15 bills this year to strengthen California’s already robust abortion protections — two of which were previously signed into law, while some signed Tuesday were already funded in the budget passed in June.

That budget included $200 million in new spending for reproductive health care services and outreach.

Among the bills signed Tuesday was SB 1142 by Sen. Anna Caballero (D-Salinas), which required the state to create the abortion services website launched earlier this month.

“This new website is a critical resource, providing essential information to patients in and out of California, and can hopefully serve as a model for the rest of the nation,” Jodi Hicks, president of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said in a statement. “No person should be forced to travel outside of their home state for essential health care, including abortion care, yet extreme politicians are making that a reality for millions across the country."

Newsom signed SB 1245, by Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), which sets aside $20 million for the Los Angeles County Abortion Access Safe Haven Pilot Program, which would expand reproductive care programs in the county.

Senate Bill 1375 by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), also signed into law by the governor, will allow trained nurse practitioners to perform first trimester abortions without the supervision of a physician. Newsom gave final approval to AB 2205 by Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles), which will create new transparency requirements for health plans participating in Covered California on how much insurers collect in abortion premiums and what portion is used for abortion services.

Carrillo said the bill will "ensure regulators and policymakers are aware of the amount of funds being collected as we consider options available for payment of abortion services."

AB 2223, which was particularly targeted by antiabortion groups, would prohibit a coroner from holding an inquest after a fetal death, including in cases in which drugs are suspected as causing a stillbirth. The bill's author, Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), said AB 2223 ensures pregnancy loss is not considered a crime, regardless of the circumstances. The bill has been targeted by antiabortion groups, which said the measure would make it difficult for law enforcement to investigate the death of a newborn.

“The reason we did this bill was because we wanted to ensure and enshrine that no person can be criminally prosecuted for something that happens in utero, which has happened in California,” Wicks said.

Newsom signed AB 1242, by Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda), which prohibits state law enforcement agencies from helping with out-of-state abortion investigations. The bill, which was sponsored by Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta, also requires out-of-state law enforcement agencies seeking data from California corporations to attest that their investigation is not related to an abortion.

“This is an unprecedented step to protect abortion privacy across the country,” Bauer-Kahan said after the bill passed the Legislature. “We have no obligation to be complicit in enforcing laws that are antithetical to our own values and legal system in California."

In June, Newsom signed a bill that created immediate liability protections for California abortion providers when caring for patients traveling from areas where the procedure is now banned or access is narrowed. AB 1666, by Bauer-Kahan, ensures that providers and patients in California can’t be held civilly liable for judgments based on claims made in antiabortion states.

Newsom signed SB 245, by Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), in March, effectively eliminating out-of-pocket costs for abortions, including co-pays that on average range from $300 for a medication abortion to nearly $900 for a procedural abortion, according to the California Health Benefits Review Program.

California law allows a person to have an abortion until the point that a physician determines “there is a reasonable likelihood of the fetus’ sustained survival outside the uterus without the application of extraordinary medical measures” or if the procedure is necessary in order to “protect the life or health of the woman.” In most cases, doctors have considered a fetus viable at 24 weeks.

Nearly two-thirds of California voters said they support legislative fixes that help people from other states obtain an abortion in California, according to a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll released last month.

Voters will be able to weigh in on California’s abortion protections in November after lawmakers placed a measure on the ballot that would explicitly protect a person’s right to an abortion. The UC Berkeley IGS poll found 7 in 10 voters support that measure, Proposition 1.

“Abortion is healthcare — timely, essential healthcare that patients should not have to scramble to secure," Atkins said in a statement Tuesday.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.