Health Care

Calif. Dems unveil 17-bill abortion rights package

It includes increased data privacy protections for abortion seekers and a shield for health care providers and patients from prosecution under other states’ abortion bans.
FILE —California State Senate President Pro Tempore, Toni Atkins, of San Diego, flanked by other members of the Legislative Women’s Caucus discusses the groups efforts to strengthen women’s reproductive rights at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. California lawmakers ended their legislative session on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, after approving more than a dozen bills to make it easier for women to get an abortion.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

California lawmakers are set to consider a legislative package that would bolster the state’s standing as a safe haven for abortion rights.

The 17 measures would, in part, increase data privacy protections for abortion seekers, shield health care providers and patients from prosecution under other states’ abortion bans, and improve insurance coverage for reproductive health care.

“This is a comprehensive bill package that will help California stay ahead of the curve and continue to withstand assaults at the national level on reproductive care,” Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D) said in a statement.

Some of the bills introduced Monday echo proposals in other Democratic-controlled legislatures and exemplify the divergent paths taken in red and blue states since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending the right to an abortion.

California has passed more than a dozen laws strengthening abortion protections in the past year and is one of four states that has passed a constitutional amendment protecting the right to an abortion.

The bills in the new package fall under a handful of broad categories:

Privacy: Several bills would enhance state privacy protections for data collected by menstrual and fertility apps and for medical records related to abortions; extend consumer protections for accessing or searching for pregnancy-related services; and provide protections for digital data related to patients accessing abortion services in California.

Information: One bill would require school districts to participate in a state initiative to collect student responses about school climate and safety and student wellness, and include a module on sexual and reproductive health care. Another would launch a public information campaign to provide “accurate information regarding access to abortion care” at crisis pregnancy centers.

Insurance: Among the insurance-related bills, one would ensure that medical malpractice insurance includes coverage for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care, two deal with the state’s Medicaid expansion program, and one would require every health insurance policy or certificate that is issued or delivered to a California resident to comply with the state’s laws that require coverage of abortion services and gender-affirming care.

Legal: One of the bills would prohibit the issue of arrest warrants for alleged violations of abortion and gender-affirming care restrictions in other states and would implement penalties for bail bondsmen. Another would provide additional safeguards for California abortion providers and other entities and individuals that serve and support abortion patients that reside in states with abortion restrictions.

Access: A couple of bills would improve access to intrauterine devices and birth control implants for abortion seekers, and allow out-of-state medical school graduates to practice in California for up 90 days in an effort to expand access to abortion and gender-affirming care.