SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California doctors who mail abortion pills to people in other states would be protected from prosecution under a new bill to be unveiled Friday in the state Legislature.
The bill would not allow California to extradite doctors who face charges in another state for providing abortion drugs. It would also protect doctors from having to pay fines. And it would allow California doctors to sue anyone who tries to stop them from performing abortions.
The bill would only protect doctors who are in California. If a doctor left California to perform an abortion on someone in another state, that doctor would not be protected. It also wouldn’t protect patients in other states who receive the drug.
State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley and author of the bill, said her intent is to make sure that California residents who travel to other states or live there temporarily, such as college students, can still have access to drugs that are legal in your home state. But she acknowledged that the bill would also apply to California doctors who treat patients who live in other states.
“This is essential medical care,” Skinner said. “Our healthcare professionals must be protected to treat their patients, regardless of where they are geographically.”
Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Maryland and Vermont have proposed or passed similar laws, according to Skinner’s office. Connecticut law, among other things, blocks out-of-state criminal subpoenas related to reproductive health services that are legal in Connecticut and also blocks extradition unless the person is fleeing a requesting state.
“Obviously, if a provider is engaging in telehealth services with someone, even if they ask where they are, they have to believe it,” said Connecticut state Rep. Matt Blumenthal, a Democrat and co-chair of the General Assembly Reproductive Rights Caucus. “We don’t want to make providers their police for their patients. And we don’t want them to have to do research every time they do telehealth.”
Other states have tried to block the distribution of the abortion pill, known as mifepristone. Attorneys general in 20 states, mostly with Republican governors, have warned some of the country’s largest drug companies that they could face legal consequences if they distribute the pill within their states.
Most abortions are prohibited in Idaho, including medical abortions. Blaine Conzatti, president of the Idaho Family Policy Center, a group that opposes abortion rights, said California has a responsibility to extradite doctors who violate Idaho laws.
“The arrogance of such a proposal is staggering,” Conzatti said of Skinner’s bill. “It flaunts the traditional relationship between the states and would completely change our federal system.”
Skinner’s bill goes beyond abortions. He would also protect doctors for shipping transgender-related birth control and medication.
California already has laws that prevent courts from enforcing other states’ judgments on abortion providers and volunteers. That law was intended to protect doctors who perform abortions on people traveling to California from other states. Opponents of abortion say laws like that are illegal because they violate a clause in the US Constitution that says states must give “full faith and credit” to the laws of other states.
Federal courts have recognized an exception to that provision, including laws in one state that violate the “public policy” of another state. Skinner’s law states that it is California public policy that physicians not be charged for providing abortion medications.
“We are very careful,” Skinner said.
Abortion pills have been legal in the US for more than two decades and can be used up to the 10th week of pregnancy. It is now the most common abortion method in the U.S. A federal judge in Texas is weighing whether to revoke or suspend the drug’s approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a decision that would apply to all states and not just those that have banned abortion. .
Skinner’s bill is one of 17 laws Democrats introduced in California this year to protect abortion rights, including proposals to improve access to birth control and protect patient privacy.
Associated Press writer Susan Haigh in Hartford, Connecticut contributed to this report.