California doctors prescribing abortion pills to out-of-state patients could have new protections

California doctors or pharmacists who prescribe or dispense abortion pills to out-of-state patients would benefit from new legal protections under a provision recently proposed in the Golden State.

The new bill, SB345, would prevent health care providers who are lawfully practicing in California from being prosecuted in another state or extradited — a growing concern as more and more States are moving to criminalize abortion and other reproductive health care.

The proposal would protect against criminal or civil lawsuits against health care providers and also allow those providers to sue someone who tries to prevent such abortion care.

State Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) introduced the bill Friday after hearing from doctors and other providers worrying about the potential legal ramifications of providing abortion pills to patients in states such as Texas and Idaho – where abortion and abortion pills are criminalized or banned. She said many California doctors continue to work with patients who may have moved to attend college, rotate work, or even relocate permanently.

“I’m trying to protect our medical professionals so they can do their job without fear,” Skinner said Friday. She said the bill, if passed, “would protect California practitioners who act in California and abide by California laws.”

The measure would not cover doctors who travel outside of California to provide health care or provide legal protections to out-of-state patients receiving abortion pills in the mail from California suppliers.

Skinner’s proposal would also provide legal protections to healthcare workers in California prescribing or dispensing contraceptives or gender-affirming care, regardless of the patient’s geographic location.

The proposal is part of a package of bills introduced this session aimed at further bolstering California’s status as a haven and beacon for abortion access, as many Republican-majority states move into the opposite direction. The Legislature passed a number of bills aimed at achieving that goal last session, following Roe’s reversal against Wade, and a coalition of lawmakers, including Skinner, hopes to build on that.

“We wouldn’t have to if states didn’t criminalize essential health care,” Skinner said. She said the county has seen a wave of “attacks” on trans people and reproductive rights over the past year.

Skinner said his bill is similar to some recently proposed laws in other blue states, including Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and Maryland, which also seek to enshrine the ability of doctors to provide access to out-of-state abortion, usually through abortion pills sent through the mail.

She said her bill would “further protect our healthcare providers who are extending a lifeline to their patients who may find themselves in a state where medically safe and effective treatments are now illegal.”

Abortion opponents have continued to push back against abortion pills in the mail, and many say bills like the one proposed in California would violate a clause in the U.S. Constitution that requires states to give “full faith and credit.” the laws of other states.

Mary Rose Short, director of California Right to Life, which disagrees with the legality of abortion, called Skinner’s bill “propaganda and misinformation.” She took issue with how the bill defined abortions, even though they were illegal in other states, as “legally protected health care activities.”

But Skinner said his bill would only apply to health care provided in California — which other states cannot monitor — and called abortion access “essential health care.” , which has been repeatedly confirmed in the state. In November, Californians voted overwhelmingly to add abortion protections to the state Constitution.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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