Gavin Newsom signs in reproductive healthcare law in wake of Texas abortion ban
After the ratification of Texas’ restrictive abortion ban, California legislators put forward two bills focusing on strengthening patient privacy that included reproductive health care and gender-affirming care. While California has some of the most supportive state reproductive choice policies, UC Berkeley professors in the gender and women’s studies department are concerned for the rights of pregnant people outside of the state.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed legislation aiming to strengthen reproductive healthcare following the recent restrictive abortion law in Texas.

Newsom signed AB 1184, which will increase patient privacy for sensitive medical information including those relating to reproductive health care and gender-affirming care. AB 1356 was also signed; the bill will increase penalties for people who violate patient privacy.

“California has been a leader in protecting access to sexual and reproductive rights, but as we’ve seen recently with unprecedented attacks on these rights, we can and must do more,” Newsom said in a press release. “I’m proud today to sign these two bills that demonstrate our dedication to strengthening and further protecting access to reproductive health care services in California.” 

According to the press release, Newsom’s administration will participate in the California Future of Abortion Council, an advisory group made up of reproductive healthcare providers, advocates and policymakers that aims to further reproductive health rights.

This legislation comes shortly after Texas’s recent law on abortion, allowing private citizens to sue anyone involved in obtaining an abortion after six weeks, when a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

In response to the Texas law, the gender and women’s studies department at UC Berkeley published a statement on the department’s website that was collectively written by its faculty, in which they said the law is worrisome and could have national impacts.

“This is concerning because it represents a tactical change in how states may write laws on any issue, allowing them to slip past federal oversight of a wide range of federally-protected rights,” the gender and women’s studies department said in the statement. “If this new standard endures, it will shift the legal consideration of how to weigh the rights of a pregnant person with any rights given through this law to an embryo, ultimately threatening the California law.”

Laura Nelson, associate professor and chair of the gender and women’s studies department and contributor to the statement, is glad to see California’s new legislation. According to Nelson, California already has robust protections for reproductive health and these new laws reinforce California’s commitment to protecting reproductive rights.

However, Nelson said she is still concerned for the reproductive rights of pregnant people in other states such as Texas.

“California state policies are already among the most supportive of reproductive choice,” Nelson said in an email. “So this is a solid move to shore up our reproductive rights here in California, but does little to help pregnant people in Texas and other states where reproductive choice is under attack.”

Contact Robson Swift at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @swift_robson.