On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization held that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion, overturning established precedent in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.
In light of all the state restrictions on reproductive access and the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, California has taken historic steps towards its commitment to become a Reproductive Freedom State. About a year ago, California Governor Gavin Newsom commissioned reproductive health, rights, and justice organizers and advocates to collectively create the California Future of Abortion Council (FAB Council) to craft a historic legislative package that would address the national health crisis spreading across our country.
The FAB Council steering committee is comprised of the National Health Law Program, ACCESS REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE, Black Women for Wellness Action Project, Essential Access Health, NARAL Pro-Choice California, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, and Training in Early Abortion for Comprehensive Healthcare (TEACH). The FAB Council released a blueprint outlining forty-five recommendations policymakers can implement to improve Californians’ and non-Californians’ access to abortion care. From this blueprint, the FAB Council secured 15 laws in California and positioned the State as the national leader on reproductive health. The bills addressed four different categories: (A) Addressing Cost Barriers; (B) Workforce Development; (C) Legal Protections; and (D) Health Equity.
Addressing Cost Barriers
Financial barriers are huge limitations to a person trying to access abortion care. The bills recently signed into law that will address cost barriers include:
- SB 245, requiring state-licensed commercial health plans and insurers to cover abortion care without imposing co-payments, deductibles, or other types of cost-sharing.
- AB 2134, providing grants to providers who offer free reproductive and sexual health care to patients with low incomes and who lack health care coverage (in state and out of state).
- SB 1142, creating a fund for organizations to provide additional financial and logistical support (travel, childcare, food, lodging, etc.) to patients who face barriers to accessing abortion care. It also requires the California Health and Human Services Agency to develop and maintain an “Abortion Information Webpage”.
- AB 2205, requiring qualified health plans under Covered California to report annually to the Department of Insurance and Department of Managed Health Care the total amount of funds collected in the segregated accounts for abortions and abortion services.
California’s abortion providers need continuous support and a stable infrastructure to address the increase in abortions and provide quality abortion services to their patients. The following bills recently signed into law that will address workforce development include:
- AB 1918, creating the California Reproductive Health Service Corps, responsible for recruiting, training, and retaining a diverse and culturally-compentent workforce of health care providers to provide reproductive health services, including abortion, in underserved areas of California.
- SB 1375, allowing nurse practitioners that meet specified criteria and training requirements to provide first trimester abortions independently (without physician supervision).
- AB 2529, expanding the Song-Brown Workforce Training Act program to include Certified Nurse-Midwifery and Licensed Midwifery training programs to address the state’s maternity workforce crisis.
Criminalization of pregnancy losses punishes people who seek abortions and deters them from seeking care. The bills recently signed into law will prevent the prosecution of pregnancy losses include:
- AB 2223, ensuring that no one in California will be investigated, prosecuted, or incarcerated for ending a pregnancy or experiencing pregnancy loss as clarified in the Reproductive Privacy Act.
- AB 1666, protecting patients and providers in California from civil liability for providing, aiding, or receiving abortion care when the claims are based on laws in other states that implemented abortion bans.
- AB 2091, enhancing privacy protections for medical records related to abortion care against disclosures to law enforcement and out-of-state third parties seeking to enforce hostile abortion bans.
- AB 2626, protecting abortion providers by preventing the Medical Board of California from revoking or suspending a medical license for a licensee providing abortion care in California and other states.
- AB 657, expediting licensure for providers and clinicians committed to provide abortion care in California.
- AB 1242, protecting California providers and patients from specified law enforcement actions that stem from any investigations based on providing or accessing abortion that is legally allowed in California.
Across California, Black, Indigenous, Latine, and Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities continue to face increasingly higher rates of inequitable access to abortion information, care, and related services. The bills recently signed into law that will address reproductive health disparities include:
- SB 1245, establishing the Los Angeles County Reproductive Safe Haven Pilot Program to support innovative approaches and patient-centered collaborations to safeguard patient access to abortions, regardless of residency, and improve the navigation and coordination between health networks and community based organizations.
- AB 2586, establishing the California Reproductive Justice and Freedom Fund to support community-based organizations to provide medically accurate, culturally-congruent, comprehensive reproductive and sexual health education, inclusive of abortion, to disproportionately impacted communities.
California secured more than $200 million in the state budget to expand abortion access and other forms of reproductive and sexual health care. The California budget includes funding for: equity and infrastructure payments for clinic abortion providers, abortion premium subsidy payments, and other family planning, access, care and treatment.
Proposition 1: The Protect Abortion Rights Ballot Initiative
On November 8, 2022, Californians voted yes on Prop 1 to enshrine the right to abortion and the right to accept or refuse contraception directly in the California State Constitution. Now, any attempts to restrict access to abortion will be subjected to the most stringent legal review. Although the right to abortion is legally protected by law, Prop 1 safeguards these rights from future attacks by a later California Supreme Court or a legislative agenda to override the right to an abortion. It will ensure that the right to abortion is protected for generations to come in California.
The FAB Council and Califonians achieved historic legislative wins to protect individuals’ abortion rights. As we celebrate these wins and California leads the nation in reproductive freedom, rights, health, and justice, we must also acknowledge that there is a long way to go to secure these reproductive freedoms for all Californians.