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California lawmakers take on Texas by blocking ‘heartbeat’ abortion laws

Protesters hold up signs outdoors.
A bill in the California Legislature would prohibit abortion restriction laws in states like Texas from being enforced in the Golden State.
(Stephen Spillman / Associated Press)

A proposal that cleared the California Assembly on Monday seeks to guard against so-called fetal heartbeat laws and abortion restrictions imposed by other states amid uncertainty over the landmark ruling in Roe vs. Wade.

The bill reinforces California’s pro-abortion rights status as federal protections are in jeopardy and after Texas and almost a dozen other states have passed laws to ban the procedure as early as the sixth week of pregnancy.

Texas law allows civil lawsuits to be filed against abortion providers or anyone who otherwise “aids or abets” a person receiving an abortion after a heartbeat has been detected — a hard-to-define timeline that significantly limits abortion access.

California’s Constitution includes broad rights of privacy but has no explicit protection for abortion services.

Abortion rights supporters worry that California-based providers could be subject to lawsuits filed in other states. Assembly Bill 1666 would prohibit California courts from taking up any cases based on out-of-state laws, which a bill analysis called “a unique and menacing approach to restricting abortion.”

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The bill won support from more than two-thirds of the Assembly, with all but one of those votes cast by Democrats. It now moves to the state Senate for consideration this summer, where its passage is considered likely.

Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda), the author of AB 1666, pointed to a law approved by the Oklahoma Legislature last week that goes further than the Texas plan: prohibiting all abortions except to save the life of the mother or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest that has been reported to law enforcement.

“Our courts do not hear these cases right now because Roe vs. Wade is the law of the land, but we all know that those days may be short,” Bauer-Kahan said on the Assembly floor Monday. “We must ensure that these foreign states’ laws do not come into our borders.”

Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California praised the bill’s passage in a statement saying it will help providers serve people “forced to seek care here in California rather than in their home state due to hostile, extreme, and dangerous restrictions or outright bans.”

Abortion foes say the bill is illegal because a clause in the U.S. Constitution requires each state to give “full faith and credit” to the laws of every other state. Federal courts have recognized some exceptions to the full faith and credit clause, including for laws in one state that violate the “public policy” of another state.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and leading state Democrats have quickly moved to label the state as a “haven” for abortion seekers and announced this month that they will ask voters in November to enshrine permanent protections in the state constitution.

A slew of bills aiming to increase abortion access is making its way through the Legislature. Also on Monday, lawmakers in the Assembly passed a bill to prevent the California Medical Board from suspending or revoking licenses for doctors who provide abortions. And Newsom has proposed millions of dollars in next year’s state budget for providers to help cover uninsured residents and an expected influx of women from other states arriving in California to seek access to services.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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