New law will ensure that no one in California will be investigated, prosecuted, or incarcerated for ending a pregnancy or experiencing pregnancy loss
- Erin Ivie
- Director of Communications, Office of Assemblymember Buffy Wicks
SACRAMENTO – Governor Newsom today signed Assembly Bill 2223, strengthening California’s role as a reproductive freedom state and ensuring that no one will ever again be prosecuted or imprisoned in California for a miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion in California.
AB 2223 protects reproductive freedom by clarifying that the Reproductive Privacy Act prohibits pregnancy criminalization, and creates a private right of action for people whose rights have been violated to seek accountability using civil courts. The bill will also remove outdated provisions requiring coroners to investigate certain pregnancy losses, and ensure that information collected about pregnancy loss is not used to target people through criminal or civil legal systems.
“Every Californian should feel secure that they can seek reproductive healthcare – regardless of the outcome of their pregnancy – without fear of becoming the subject of a criminal investigation,” said Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland). “Today, we cement this right for millions of Californians, ensuring that no one will ever again face the trauma of having their pregnancy policed by state systems.”
In the past two decades, at least 1,300 pregnant people have been criminally prosecuted for having miscarriages or stillbirths, or self-managing an abortion. California has not been exempt: despite clear law that ending or losing a pregnancy is not a crime, prosecutors have charged people with homicide offenses for pregnancy losses. Two women from California’s Central Valley – Adora Perez and Chelsea Becker – spent 4 years and 1 year respectively behind bars after delivering stillborn babies.
In California, this misuse of state power is partly traceable to out-of-date provisions that give coroners a duty to investigate certain abortions and pregnancy losses. Based on these provisions, health care providers and institutions have reported people who have just given birth, had an abortion, or experienced a pregnancy loss to police, triggering harmful investigations and even unlawful prosecutions.
“AB 2223 sends a clear message that California will protect our right to decide if and when to become a parent and our ability to seek care with dignity and without fear of criminalization,” said Laura Jiménez, Executive Director, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice. “This is especially important at a time when the bodily autonomy and lives of our communities across the country – Black, Indigenous, other communities of color, people with disabilities, immigrants, people living in poverty, young people, and LGBTQIA+ communities – continue to be under attack.”
And with states hostile to abortion rights attempting to impose criminal or civil penalties on people who assist others in obtaining an abortion, Californians will now be better able to support friends, community members, and loved ones with their abortion without being investigated, arrested, or prosecuted.
“Every person should have the right to make decisions about their body and get the care they need without fear. Still, there are growing efforts in California to interrogate, prosecute, and incarcerate people for their pregnancy outcomes,” said Onyemma Obiekea on behalf of the AB 2223 coalition, a group that includes ACLU California Action, Black Women for Wellness Action Project, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice, NARAL Pro-Choice California, and Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California. “AB 2223 fights back by creating a shield to separate reproductive healthcare from policing systems that discriminate based on race and wealth. By signing this bill, Governor Newsom is bringing California one step closer to its values. It's legislation that every progressive state should model.”
About Assemblymember Buffy Wicks
Assemblymember Buffy Wicks represents California’s 15th Assembly District, which includes all or portions of the cities of Oakland, Richmond, Berkeley, Emeryville, Albany, El Cerrito, San Pablo, Pinole, El Sobrante, Hercules, Kensington, and Piedmont. You can learn more about Assemblymember Wicks at http://a14.asmdc.org.