“With Gov. Newsom’s signing of SB 345, healthcare providers in California will be able to offer a lifeline to people in states that have cut off access to essential care,” said state Sen. Nancy Skinner.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law, SB 345, on Sept. 27, that protects healthcare practitioners located in California who provide telehealth services and dispense medication for abortion, contraception and gender-affirming care to out-of-state patients. California joins five other states with similar telehealth provider shield laws.
“The signing of SB 345 into law is a huge win for reproductive freedom and access to essential healthcare, including abortion care,” said Shannon Olivieri Hovis, director of Reproductive Freedom for All California. “This law extends beyond California’s borders and will help people all over the country access the healthcare that they need.”
Under SB 345, people in states that have criminalized abortion or gender-affirming care will be able to obtain healthcare from a California clinician via telehealth or videoconferencing and have medication shipped to them from a California pharmacy. SB 345 will protect California doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers located in California from criminal and civil actions initiated in another state. The law also protects providers from loss of a medical license and malpractice insurance relating to any legally protected healthcare activity in the state.
The narrative that you have to travel to get an abortion if you live in a state with a ban is no longer true for those with pregnancies of less than 13 weeks.Elisa Wells, co-director of Plan C.
“With SB 345, California doctors, midwives, pharmacists and others can continue to provide the essential reproductive and gender-affirming care their patients need, regardless of where their patient is located, confident that California is protecting our medical professionals from malicious prosecution,” said Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), who introduced the bill.
Skinner estimated that 36 million women of child-bearing age now live in states that have banned abortion. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 35.1 percent of trans youth aged 13-17, totaling 105,200 people, live in states that have passed bans on gender affirming care
“With Gov. Newsom’s signing of SB 345, healthcare providers physically located in California will be able to offer a lifeline to people in states that have cut off access to essential care, and be shielded from the draconian laws of those states,” said Skinner.
The new law prohibits California law enforcement, government officials or government contractors from cooperating with out-of-state prosecutions related to abortion, contraception or gender-affirming care.
The law serves as a counter to state laws like SB 8 in Texas, which authorize private individuals to enforce abortion bans by suing healthcare providers who perform prohibited abortions or anyone who “aids and abets” another person to obtain one. Conversely, SB 345 allows California providers and patients to bring lawsuits in California against anyone who interferes with their right to obtain, provide or dispense healthcare that is legally protected in California.
SB 345 also strengthens California’s “safe haven” laws by adding protections for people seeking refuge from prosecution or imprisonment by another state that has criminalized abortion or gender-affirming care. The law also prohibits California-based social media and tech companies from disclosing to law enforcement any private communication of patients regarding healthcare that is legally protected in California.
SB 345 takes effect Jan. 1, 2024.
“We are excited that legislators and clinicians are finding innovative ways to ensure that people in all states can get early abortion care,” said Elisa Wells, co-director of Plan C. “The narrative that you have to travel to get an abortion if you live in a state with a ban is no longer true for those with pregnancies of less than 13 weeks.”
Massachusetts was the first state to pass a telehealth abortion provider shield law in July of 2022, later followed by Washington, Colorado, Vermont and New York. Through clinicians in these five states, over 5,500 patients living in states banning abortion are now accessing abortion pills by telehealth and mail each month, said Julie F. Kay, co-founder and legal director of the Abortion Coalition for Telemedicine Access, which advocates for telemedicine abortion provider shield laws.
“We’ve seen how effective telemedicine abortion can be,” said Kay.
“We want people to know that unjust abortion bans are not stopping access: In all 50 states, people can receive these safe and effective pills by mail to take in the privacy of their own homes,” said Wells. “This care is provided by licensed clinicians who provide an FDA-approved product, shipped in 2 to 5 days for $150 or less. Everyone deserves access to this convenient, private, and modern form of early abortion care, regardless of their zip code.”
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