Newsom, Lawmakers Announce Bill in Response to Arizona’s Abortion Ban

Travis Gillmore
By Travis Gillmore
April 24, 2024California
California lawmakers introduced a law that would make it easier for women in Arizona to travel to the state to get an abortion. The bill is a response to Arizona's recent ban on nearly all abortions.

SACRAMENTO—California Gov. Gavin Newsom joined the Legislative Women’s Caucus to announce a new bill, which would allow licensed doctors in Arizona to provide abortions to their patients while temporarily practicing in California, at a press conference held at the Capitol on April 24.

“If you care about women and girls and their future … this is just about basic humanity and decency,” Mr. Newsom told The Epoch Times.

Senate Bill 233—authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner and Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry—would allow Arizona-based doctors to operate in California under the oversight of the Golden State’s medical board through Nov. 30.

The November end date is based on an expectation that Arizona voters will approve an abortion measure on their state ballot, according to a fact sheet provided by the governor’s office.

The new California bill is a response to Arizona’s Supreme Court ruling April 9 which determined that an 1864 state law—which criminalizes abortion— should hold precedence after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 reversal of Roe v. Wade threw the issue back to the states.

“This is about power and control,” Mr. Newsom said. “They want to bring us back to the 1860s … and it’s really an extraordinary moment that we’re living through.”

He argued that the decision by the Arizona justices is endangering women and impacting public safety.

“Arizona Republicans continue to put women in danger—embracing a draconian law passed when Arizona was a territory, not even a state,” Mr. Newsom said in a press release announcing the bill. “California will not sit idly by. We’re urgently moving legislation to allow Arizona doctors to provide safe and reliable reproductive care to Arizonans here in California.”

To that end, the bill’s language replaces prior text regarding electric vehicle charging in what is known as a gut-and-amend technique. As the February 16 deadline for introducing new bills has passed, lawmakers can substitute their original bills with new proposals. Some, however, consider the process controversial, as it limits the time for debate and oversight by committees.

Once the law in Arizona takes effect June 8, any doctor who provides, supplies, or administers abortion services or medications will face prison sentences ranging between two and five years unless the procedure is needed to save the mother’s life. Exceptions for rape or incest are not allowed.

“Anti-abortion forces have resurrected a dead law passed at a time when women couldn’t vote and husbands beating their wives was lawful,” Ms. Skinner said during the press conference. “In upholding Arizona’s 160-year-old law, it’s clear that their real objective is to return women to second-class status.”

Proponents of the new bill say the measure is following through on efforts undertaken by the governor and Legislature following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.

Since then, lawmakers established the Abortion Practical Support Fund with $20 million to cover travel, meals, childcare, and other services for women who live in states where abortions have since been limited—with approximately 1,500 people assisted in the first six months of the program, which began in 2023.

Additionally, $40 million was provided to pay for abortion care costs for Californians and others seeking procedures in the state through what’s known as the state’s Uncompensated Care Fund—with more than 40,000 people served in its first six months, according to the state’s Department of Public Health which oversees the program.

Supporters of the new bill said the proposal is reflective of the state’s willingness to lead policy discussions across the nation on the abortion issue.

“If California has to lead, we will, especially when it comes to protecting women’s health and bodily autonomy against archaic, conservative, anti-woman attacks,” Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the governor’s wife, said during the press conference. “California will provide safe harbor for those in Arizona providing and seeking abortion care.”

Since Roe v. Wade was overturned, 41 states have enacted bans or severe restrictions on abortions, with 14 prohibiting the procedures entirely.

Such has resulted in about 160,000 women traveling outside of their home state to have an abortion, according to a fact sheet released by the governor’s office.

In the first 15 months after the decision, California providers performed 12,000 more abortions than they would normally have, according to Mr. Newsom.

The new bill includes an urgency clause and will take effect upon approval by the governor. Mr. Newsom said he is expecting to sign the measure into law before Arizona’s June deadline—assuming the bill progresses through the Legislature’s respective policy committees—and is ultimately approved by the Senate and Assembly.

To operate legally in California, doctors in Arizona will be required to submit documentation proving their licensure to the Medical Board or the Osteopathic Medical Board of California, according to the governor’s fact sheet.

After documents are verified, providers would be registered to practice in California. However, they will only be allowed to treat Arizona residents.

The doctors will be able to travel between the two states, and residency in California will not be required.

One co-author of the new bill expressed her commitment to Arizonans and noted their chance to vote for their beliefs in the coming election when a ballot measure will task voters with determining Arizona’s abortion laws.

“To Arizona people of child-bearing age, and those who love and support them, we have your back,” Ms. Aguiar-Curry said during the press conference. “At least until you get the chance to reverse this attack on your rights on the Arizona ballot this November.”

Initial costs associated with offering low- or no-cost services to Arizonans will be covered by $100,000 donated by the Red, Wine, & Blue organization, which established the Arizona Freedom Trust to help raise funds to compensate providers. It is unclear how much money will be needed, though a grassroots effort led by more than 500,000 Californians is now looking to raise money to support the effort, according to the governor’s press release.

Taxpayers will not be on the hook for the new law, according to the governor’s office.

Some critics of the plan suggested the bill is meant to politicize the issue and divide the electorate.

“This bill is a distraction from the dismal state of health care here in California,” Minority Leader Assemblyman James Gallagher told The Epoch Times by email April 24. “People can’t get primary care, pregnant women can’t get in to see a doctor, and hospitals are on the verge of closing, but Gavin Newsom is more concerned about other states. I think this is more about Arizona being a 2028 swing state than actually improving things for Californians.”

Pro-life advocates argued that the measure would negatively affect the state and disregard the belief systems of millions of residents.

“It’s hard to understand the obsession California has with abortion,” Greg Burt, vice president of the California Family Council—a Christian nonprofit group focused on life and family values—told The Epoch Times April 24. “The only thing California offers is abortion as the answer, and that’s tragic.”

He said the state’s focus on the abortion debate should be elsewhere.

“The state is treating pregnancy like it’s some kind of disease that they’re going to treat with abortion care,” Mr. Burt said. “We should be developing here in California an atmosphere where families and children are welcome.”

Abortion has taken center stage in the coming presidential election, with some political analysts suggesting that Democrats are looking to capitalize on past electoral successes when the issue is on the ballot.

President Joe Biden made the matter a focal point in his recent address in Florida—saying the issue is potentially turning the traditionally red region into a swing state.

From The Epoch Times

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