Gavin Newsom unveils bill to aid Arizonans seeking abortion care in California. Here’s how

Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers unveiled an emergency bill Wednesday that aims to give abortion providers temporary protection if they care for Arizona patients in California.

The legislation, which is expected to sail through the Democratic controlled California Legislature, will make the Golden State the first in the nation to allow doctors from out of state to perform abortion services outside their home state.

The bill, SB 233, will build in anonymity for doctors — thus protecting them from prosecution when they return to Arizona — if they travel to California.

While women from any state can already receive abortion services in California, the law would give Arizona providers, including those who already have existing doctor-patient relationships with Arizonans, to continue the give care without fear of litigation and of any reciprocal criminal prosecution, Newsom said.

The legislation was introduced to counter the Arizona Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding a 160-year-old abortion ban — a near total ban on the procedure — that could go into effect in June.

But as Newsom was introducing the bill, co-authored by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D- Berkeley and Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, the chair and vice chair respectively of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, alongside lawmakers Wednesday midmorning, the Arizona House approved a repeal of the ban.

The repeal came two weeks after the Arizona high court’s ruling and now moves to the Republican-controlled Senate in that state.

Asked about the impact of the Arizona House vote, Newsom’s office pointed to its statement before the House acted.

It said that the California legislation “is a valuable stopgap even if the Arizona Republican-led legislature passes a law to repeal the extreme 1864 ban. With its urgency clause, SB 233 would fill a critical gap for care during a meaningful period of time before an Arizona repeal could be implemented. Swift action helps combat the confusion and chilling effect this back-and-forth creates.”

Newsom and the Women’s Caucus began hammering out the new bill’s language as the governor revealed on national television last weekend that he was working with lawmakers to move swiftly.

According to a fact sheet from the governor’s office, last year 160,000 people traveled outside of the state they live in to get abortion care and during the first 15 months after the U.S. Supreme court overturned Roe v. Wade, and “California providers performed more than 12,000 additional abortions than was expected if Roe had not been overturned.” Roe v. Wade was a landmark 1973 court ruling that established abortion as a constitutional right.

Furthermore, the office noted and the governor reiterated later, abortions increased by 37% between 2020 and 2023 in states with abortion access bordering states that banned access.

Newsom also said 65,000 women were raped last year.

“This is not an academic exercise. This is real life. This is happening in real time,” he said, adding that the costs are apparent in the quality of life, economic and medical costs and damage done to women.

Many of the women have been fleeing restrictive states to get abortion care elsewhere and many have ended up in California, Newsom said, naming an increase in Riverside, Imperial and San Diego counties.

Arizona’s new law will directly impact California, the governor said. And, rather than wait for that, the new legislation will help the state get ahead on that. A third of patients served by Planned Parenthood are in California, Newsom noted at the Capitol press conference.

“No state has more to do and more responsibility to promote what needs to be done. So, that’s the spirit that brings us here together,” he said.

Here are some of the items that SB 233 aims to accomplish, in part, according to the governor’s office:

It would temporarily allow licensed Arizona doctors to provide abortion and abortion-related care to Arizona patients through Nov. 30.

The Arizona doctors would be under the oversight of California’s Medical Board and Osteopathic Medical Board and would be required to provide registration information to those boards and would be able to treat Arizona patients only.

Arizona abortion providers can relocate and can travel back and forth. The law does not require residency, and is based on existing state law (SB 143, 2023) and federal law for military spouses.

The new bill will not cost California taxpayers additional money, the governor’s office said. An organization called “Red Wine & Blue,” representing over half a million suburban women, has created the Arizona Freedom Trust to raise money to pay the Arizona providers who offer abortion care, already committing $100,000, the office said.

Since the deadline for introducing new bills for the current session of the California Legislature passed in February, the language of what the governor would like lawmakers to consider and approve is being woven as an amendment into an existing bill currently winding its way through the legislative process.

In addition to other privacy protections built into other abortion-related laws already signed by Newsom into law, Skinner said language being added to the new bill includes privacy protections for Arizona providers who come to California to offer abortion care for Arizonans.