Doctors in California who mail abortion pills to people in other states will 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 will also protect doctors from paying fines. California doctors will be allowed to sue anyone who tries to prevent them from performing abortions.
The bill would only protect doctors who are located in California. If a California doctor leaves to provide an abortion to someone in another state, that doctor is not protected. Nor will it protect patients in other countries who are receiving the drug.
State Sen. Nancy Skinner, a Berkeley Democrat and author of the bill, said her intention is to make sure that Californians who travel in other states or live there temporarily — such as college students — can still get legal drugs in their 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 healthcare,” Skinner said. “Our healthcare practitioners must be protected in order to treat their patients no matter where their patients are geographically.”
Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Maryland and Vermont have proposed or passed similar laws, according to Skinner’s office. Connecticut law prohibits, among other things, criminal summons from other states related to legal reproductive health care services in Connecticut while also prohibiting extradition—unless the person flees a state that requests it.
said Matt Blumenthal, R-Conn., a Democrat and co-chair of the General Assembly’s Conference on Reproductive Rights. “We don’t want to make providers their police for their patients. And we don’t want to force them to do an investigation every time they do telehealth.”
Other states have tried to block distribution of the abortion pill known as mifepristone. Attorneys general in 20 states, most of them with Republican governors, have warned some of the nation’s largest pharmaceutical companies that they could face legal consequences if they distribute birth control pills within their states.
Most abortions are prohibited in Idaho, including medical abortions. California has a responsibility to extradite doctors who break Idaho laws, said Blaine Conzatti, president of the Idaho Family Policy Center — a group that opposes abortion rights.
“The arrogance of such a proposal is astounding,” Conzatti said of Skinner’s bill. “It flaunts the traditional relationship between the states and will completely upend our federal system.”
Skinner’s bill goes beyond abortions. It would also protect doctors for mailing transgender contraceptives and medications.
California already has laws that prevent courts from enforcing out-of-state judgments on abortion providers and volunteers. This law was intended to protect doctors who perform abortions on people who travel to California from other states. Abortion opponents say such laws are illegal because they violate a provision in the US Constitution that states must give “full faith and credit” to the laws of other states.
Federal courts have made exceptions to this provision, including for laws in one state that violate the “public policy” of another. The Skinner Act states that public policy in California states that doctors should not be accused of providing abortion drugs.
“We’re very careful,” Skinner said.
The abortion pill has been legal in the United States for more than two decades and can be used up to the 10th week of pregnancy. It is now the most popular method of abortion in the United States. A federal judge in Texas is revoking or suspending FDA approval of the drug, a decision that would apply to all states and not just those that have banned abortions. .
Skinner’s bill is one of 17 pieces of legislation introduced by California Democrats this year to protect abortion rights, including proposals to improve access to birth control and protect patients’ privacy.
Associated Press reporter Susan Hay in Hartford, Connecticut, contributed to this report.
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