The California governor signed two laws that aim to protect the privacy of abortion providers and their patients, declaring the state to be a “reproductive freedom state” and drawing a sharp contrast with Texas and its efforts to limit the procedure.
One law makes it a crime to film people within 100 feet (30 meters) of an abortion clinic for the purpose of intimidation, a law abortion rights groups believe to be the first of its kind in the country. The other law makes it easier for people on their parents’ insurance plans to keep sensitive medical information secret, including abortions.
The laws, signed by Gavin Newsom on Wednesday, intensify the political rivalry between the nation’s two most populous states. California and Texas have become bastions of their respective political ideologies, with each state carving out opposing positions on issues including healthcare, immigration and the environment.
That rivalry has come into sharper focus recently with a new Texas law that bans abortions once cardiac activity is detected, which is usually around six weeks and before some women know they are pregnant. The US supreme court decided to let the law take effect for now, banning most abortions in the state.
“These are dark days. I don’t think one can understate the consequential nature of the moment that we are living in,” Newsom said. “It becomes of outsized importance that California assert itself.”
It is already illegal in California to post personal information about abortion providers or their patients online. But that law has not been updated since the mid-2000s, before the proliferation of smart phones with hi-tech cameras that can rapidly post to social media websites.
The new law, written by state assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, a Democrat, makes it a misdemeanor to film someone without their consent for the purpose of intimidation. Offenders can be punished by up to one year in a county jail, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
The law also requires extensive training for local law enforcement agencies on how to enforce it.
“We’re upping the ante. We’re saying in California we will not accept that our reproductive healthcare providers and patients be subject to threats both online and in person,” Bauer-Kahan said.
Newsom also signed a law on Wednesday making it easier for people who are still on their parents’ health plans to keep their medical treatment secret. State and federal law already provide privacy protections for people who are not the primary policyholder on a health insurance plan. But state assemblyman David Chiu, a Democrat from San Francisco, said patients had to request that confidentiality, and the law has not been consistently enforced.
This new law, written by Chiu, requires insurance companies in California to automatically keep certain medical procedures confidential, including abortions. Chiu said the bill is important now because the federal Affordable Care Act lets people stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26.
Jonathan Keller, president of the California Family Council, said the bill should have distinguished between a 25-year-old on their parents’ health plan and a 12-year-old.
“Parents should be consulted before their minor children are given life-altering medical treatment,” he said. “It’s deeply concerning that the legislature and the governor continue to usurp parental authority.”