SAN FRANCISCO — California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law Wednesday that would stop other states from prosecuting doctors and pharmacists who send abortion pills to patients in places where the procedure is banned.
California already has a law that protects doctors who perform abortions from out-of-state judgments. However, this law was intended to protect physicians who treat patients from other states who travel to California.
The new law goes a step further by prohibiting authorities from cooperating with out-of-state investigations into doctors who send abortion pills to patients in other states. In addition, bounty hunters or bail bondsmen are prohibited from arresting doctors, pharmacists and patients in California and transporting them to another state to stand trial on abortion charges.
Other states, including New York and Massachusetts, have similar laws. But California law also bars state social media companies — like Facebook — from complying with subpoenas, warrants or other out-of-state records requests to find out the identities of patients seeking abortion pills.
“Health care providers physically located in California will be able to provide a lifeline to people in states that lack access to essential health care and be protected from those states’ draconian laws,” said Senator Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley Democrat and author of the bill, said in a statement.
The law only protects physicians and pharmacists who reside in California. If a doctor or pharmacist leaves California to care for a patient in another state, the law would not protect them.
“We will continue to protect women and health care workers who seek and provide essential care,” Newsom said in a news release announcing he had signed the bill.
The California Catholic Conference opposed the law, arguing that the state was engaging in “ideological colonization against states and citizens who do not want abortion.”
“Denying the legitimate interest of other states in protecting unborn children and public health sets a dangerous precedent,” the association wrote in a letter to lawmakers earlier this year.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 1973, which guaranteed access to abortion nationwide. Since then, half of the states have passed laws that either ban or restrict access to abortion.
In some states, that includes trying to restrict access to the abortion pill mifepristone, which is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration up to 10 weeks of pregnancy. It is now the most common abortion method in the country.
The advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom has challenged the FDA’s approval of mifepristone. In April, a federal judge revoked the FDA’s approval, a decision that would have banned the drug in the United States. However, the US Supreme Court decided to uphold the FDA approval while the judge’s decision was appealed.
The law is one of eight bills Newsom signed Wednesday aimed at protecting access to abortion. Democrats who control the California Legislature have made protecting access to abortion a priority since the Roe v. Wade decision was overturned.