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California legislature passes bill to protect abortion providers and patients from civil suits

<i>Rich Pedroncelli/AP</i><br/>Anti-abortion supporters rallied at the Capitol during the California March for Life rally held in Sacramento
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Anti-abortion supporters rallied at the Capitol during the California March for Life rally held in Sacramento

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

California lawmakers on Thursday passed a bill that aims to protect abortion providers and patients seeking abortion care in the state from civil action started in another state.

Assembly Bill 1666 next heads to the desk of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is supportive of abortion rights. It would take effect immediately with his signature.

The measure would make it so that “another state’s law authorizing a civil action against a person or entity that receives or seeks, performs or induces, or aids or abets the performance of an abortion, or who attempts or intends to engage in those actions” is contrary to California public policy, and is unenforceable by California courts.

AB 1666 “creates the protections to make California a legal sanctuary for reproductive choice,” the bill’s Democratic sponsor Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan said in a hearing earlier this month.

The bill comes in response to laws in states including Texas and Oklahoma, which allow private citizens to bring civil suits against anyone who assists a pregnant person seeking an abortion in violation of the law.

Many GOP-led states have enacted restrictive abortion laws as the Supreme Court’s conservative majority is expected this month to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that established a nationwide right to abortion. A leaked draft majority opinion, which was published in May by Politico, would strike down Roe v. Wade. A final opinion in that case could come as early as Friday.

Meanwhile, Democratic-led states, such as Connecticut, Colorado and Washington state, have recently passed laws to protect abortion rights. Connecticut’s and Washington’s legislation is similar to California’s, in that it’s designed to protect people who provide an abortion or receive support to obtain the procedure in those states and are then sued in another state.

AB 1666 is part of a slate of legislative proposals from the California Future of Abortion Council, a coalition that includes abortion rights advocacy groups.

“These precautions and protections are a key first step as California prepares for a post-Roe world, and unfortunately necessary given the increased hostility and frequency of abortion bans in other states seeking to target patients and providers,” Molly Robson, the legislative director for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said in a statement.

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