Bill would allow Arizona abortion providers to practice in California temporarily

Pro-abortion rights demonstrators rally in Scottsdale, Arizona on April 15, 2024. The top court in Arizona on April 9, 2024 ruled a 160-year-old near total ban on abortion is enforceable, thrusting the issue to the top of the agenda in a key US presidential election swing state. (Photo by Frederic J. Brown / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

Arizona abortion providers could practice in California under a new law designed to provide care to women who cross the state line as they face newly restrictive prohibitions at home.

The bill introduced Wednesday aims to expedite temporary authorization for those Arizona doctors to practice in both states. It is the latest move by Gov. Gavin Newsom to make California a reproductive health "sanctuary" as abortion seekers in several Republican-led states have lost access to care after the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade in 2022. The bill would also protect the privacy of medical professionals who practice in California.

"We are putting the boxing gloves on to protect women's rights," said Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) at a morning news conference. "The state of California has the authority to stand strong for Arizona and their doctors."

Newsom also attended the news conference alongside members of the women's caucus and healthcare leaders. The legislation was introduced by Skinner and Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters), the chair and vice chair of the women's caucus, respectively.

"Arizona law is the first border state law that will directly impact California," Newsom said. He cited a report that said abortion access in states that border a state that has banned access increased 37% from 2020 to 2023. "This is not an academic exercise. This is real life. This is happening in real time."

Newsom cited a recent report that found that 160,000 people across this country had to flee their states to access reproductive care last year. An additional 65,000 women who were raped became pregnant in 14 of the most restrictive states, he said.

"We are trying to get ahead of this law which goes into effect on June 8," Newsom said of the Arizona ban.

The proposal would temporarily allow licensed Arizona doctors to perform abortions and provide related care to Arizona patients traveling to California until the end of November. The Arizona doctors would be under the oversight of California’s Medical Board and Osteopathic Medical Board.

The legislation, which if passed and signed by the governor would go into effect immediately, comes after the Arizona Supreme Court voted this month to impose a near total abortion ban, reinstating a law from 1864 that prohibits abortions except when the woman’s life is at risk.

“Arizona Republicans continue to put women in danger — embracing a draconian law passed when Arizona was a territory, not even a state," Newsom said in a statement released Wednesday morning. "California will not sit idly by."

The Arizona House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a proposal to repeal the state's near-total ban on abortions, though that was just the first step in the legislative process. The Arizona Senate is not expected to take a final vote on the proposal until May.

The governor is working with the state Legislature's California Women’s Caucus to pass the bill.

California saw a surge in abortions after the Supreme Court reversed Roe, and now clinics are bracing for more after the latest Arizona ruling.

The bill is likely to pass with ease with Newsom's support but is sure to reignite criticisms from Republican lawmakers who say the Democratic governor — widely viewed as a future presidential candidate — should focus more on California's crises, including a budget deficit and surging homelessness, and less on out-of-state policies.

The bill joins a litany of abortion measures that Newsom and California's Democratic supermajority have approved in recent years — not just to enhance care in the Golden State but to provide support to nonresidents facing limited care nationwide.

Last year, Newsom signed a bill into law to allow doctors living under “hostile” laws in states where abortion is banned to receive training in California.

Earlier this week, at a news conference in Modesto, Newsom said abortion access rollbacks have "placed a burden" on California's healthcare system, especially in Imperial, Riverside and San Diego counties, where clinics have seen an increase in out-of-state patients, including those from Arizona and Texas.

On Sunday, Newsom launched another round of TV advertisements that call out red state antiabortion laws, this time to be aired in Alabama and focusing on proposals that aim to punish women for interstate travel to obtain services.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.