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California doctors who prescribe abortion pills to out-of-state patients can get new protections

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

The new bill SB345would prevent health care providers who legally perform their work in California from facing prosecution in another state or being extradited, a growing concern as more states movement to criminalize abortion and other reproductive health services.

The proposal would protect against criminal or civil actions taken against health care providers, and would 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 who were concerned about the potential legal ramifications of providing abortion pills to patients in states like Texas and Idaho — where abortion and abortion pills are criminalized or prohibited. She said many California doctors continued to work with patients who may have moved to attend college, fulfill a job rotation or even move permanently.

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

The measure would not cover doctors who travel outside of California to provide medical care or provide legal protection for out-of-state patients who receive abortion pills by mail from California providers.

Skinner’s proposal would also provide legal protections for health care workers in California who prescribe or dispense 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 safe haven and model for abortion access, as many Republican-majority states move in the opposite direction. . The Legislature passed a series of bills toward that goal last session, following the reversal of Roe v. Wade, and a coalition of lawmakers, including Skinner, hopes to take advantage of that.

“We wouldn’t have to do this if states didn’t criminalize essential health care,” Skinner said. She said the county had seen a wave of “attacks” on trans people and reproductive rights in 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 out-of-state abortion access, typically through of 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 be in a state where medically safe and effective treatments are now illegal.”

Opponents of abortion have continued to reject abortion pills sent by mail, and many say that the invoices as the proposal in California would violate a clause in the US Constitution that requires states to give “full faith and credit” to 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 when 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 control, 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.

Associated Press contributed to this report.