Health

Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to let Arizona doctors provide abortions in California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — (AP) — Arizona doctors could give their patients abortions in California under a proposal announced Wednesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom to circumvent a ban on nearly all abortions in the neighboring state.

It would apply only to doctors licensed in good standing in Arizona and their patients, and last only through the end of November. Arizona's 1864 law banning all abortions except if the woman's life is in jeopardy would take effect June 8, and Newsom said protecting access to abortions is “just about basic decency” and “respect for women and girls.”

“This Arizona law is the first border-state law that will directly impact the state of California,” the Democratic governor said. “Rather than just acknowledging that fate and future, we're trying to get ahead of this law.”

Newsom joined the California Legislative Women's Caucus and advocates to announce the proposal. Lawmakers called the Arizona law “draconian” and said California had an obligation to get involved. The bill would need to pass by a two-thirds vote in each house of the Legislature before reaching Newsom’s desk. After he signs it, it would go into effect immediately.

Dr. Tanya Spirtos, a gynecologist and president of the California Medical Association, said it is unfortunate that Arizona abortion patients will have to travel out of state, but she’s proud to see California step in to assist them.

“All personal medical decisions, including those around abortion, should be made by patients in consultation with their health care providers,” Spirtos said. “By banning virtually all abortions in the state, the ruling will put physicians in harm's way for simply providing often lifesaving medical care to their patients.”

The Arizona Supreme Court cleared the way earlier this month for the near-total ban to move forward. Fifteen states have banned abortion at all stages of pregnancy, though Arizona's Legislature is expected to repeal the 160-year-old law, setting the state up for a 15-week limit. California law generally allows the procedure up to the point of fetal viability, which is around 24 weeks.

About 11,500 abortions were reported in Arizona in 2022, down from nearly 14,000 in the previous year, according to a report from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Democratic Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs’ office declined to comment on the California bill.

Newsom should focus on “very real problems” in his own state, said Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma, a Republican who voted against repealing the near-total ban.

Arizona state Sen. Eva Burch, a Democrat, said the California proposal is “a step in the right direction,” but she hopes it is not necessary and that Arizona repeals the ban. Burch has had two abortions to terminate nonviable pregnancies.

“It’s unreasonable for us to expect patients to have to travel out of state for this kind of care,” Burch said. “In circumstances like mine, where I was having a failed miscarriage, a stalled miscarriage, traveling wouldn’t be appropriate.”

While abortion access in California has never been under serious threat, Newsom — widely seen as a potential presidential candidate beyond 2024 — has made defending that access a priority of his administration.

Newsom pushed for abortion access to be enshrined in the California Constitution. He approved $20 million of taxpayer money to help pay for women in other states to come to California for abortions, and he signed dozens of laws aimed at making it harder for other states to investigate women who do so, including banning social media companies from complying with subpoenas or warrants.

In 2022, months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, California launched a publicly funded website to promote the state's abortion services, including information about financial help for travel expenses and letting teenagers in other states know that California does not require them to have their parents' permission to get an abortion in the state.

It's also become a chief talking point in Newsom's role as a top surrogate of President Joe Biden's reelection campaign. Using money left over from his own 2022 reelection campaign, Newsom started a political action committee he calls the " Campaign for Democracy " that has paid for billboards and TV ads in Republican-led states to criticize their leaders' attempts to outlaw or restrict access to abortions. In February he launched ads in multiple states to criticize proposals there that aimed to prohibit out-of-state travel for abortions.

Newsom’s campaign on Sunday released a dramatic ad in Alabama depicting a young woman trying to leave the state who is stopped by a police officer who demands that she take a pregnancy test. The ad ran after an Alabama lawmaker introduced a bill to make it a crime to help someone under 18 get an abortion without telling their parents or guardians. It has not been voted on in committee.

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Associated Press writers Adam Beam in Sacramento and Anita Snow and Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix contributed.

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Austin is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Austin on the social platform X: @sophieadanna

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