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Gavin Newsom Signs Bill Protecting Doctors Sending Abortion Medication Elsewhere

The new law offers “a lifeline to people in states” where abortion medication is regulated, the bill’s author said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California on May 2, 2023.

On Wednesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed into law a bill that will prevent other states from prosecuting doctors and pharmacists in California who send abortion medication to patients in states where the use or dissemination of such drugs is illegal or strictly regulated.

The law is intended to expand abortion rights protections beyond the borders of the Golden State, the author of the legislation said.

“Health care providers, physically located in California, will be able to offer a lifeline to people in states that have cut off access to essential care, and be shielded from the draconian laws of those states,” said Democratic state Sen. Nancy Skinner.

California already protects doctors and abortion providers against prosecution in cases in which a patient travels to the state for an abortion. The new bill expands those protections by forbidding law enforcement agencies and other government officials in California from cooperating with out-of-state investigations if doctors or providers send abortion medication by mail to patients elsewhere in the U.S.

The law also bars bounty hunters or bail agents from forcefully transporting doctors, pharmacists and patients if they’re sought after by other states’ prosecutors, and forbids social media companies from complying with subpoenas against California-based doctors and pharmacists in investigations relating to abortion mediation.

In signing the bill, Newsom pledged to extend abortion rights in the future.

“The right to an abortion is enshrined in California’s constitution. We will continue to protect women and health care workers who are seeking and providing basic care,” Newsom said.

Abortion rights advocates celebrated the passage of the bill this week.

California “is fighting to protect and expand access to essential health care – just like the vast majority of this country wants,” Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California said on social media.

Several months before the Supreme Court upended federal abortion protections last year, Newsom and other state Democratic lawmakers pledged to make California a “sanctuary” state for U.S. residents seeking abortion services. In addition to signing a number of bills aimed at expanding abortion access in California, Newsom has taken actions to strengthen abortion rights throughout the country, including helping to form a 20-state alliance with other governors to combat abortion bans, and ending a $54 million deal with pharmacy giant Walgreens after it restricted the sale of abortion medication.

The actions that Newsom and other Democratic lawmakers in California are taking on abortion are likely supported by Americans overall. Polling from a CBS News/YouGov survey in June — roughly one year after the Supreme Court’s decision to upend federal abortion rights — shows that a majority (56 percent) of Americans disagree with the decision. Forty-six percent of respondents said that the ruling made being pregnant in the U.S. more dangerous. In separate polling of OBGYNs, more than two-thirds (68 percent) of respondents said that the Court’s action made it more difficult to respond to pregnancy-related emergencies.

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