California Legislature Strengthen Female Reproductive Health Privacy

A bill has been approved by the California legislature that forbids businesses operating in the state of California from providing access to information on those pursuing or performing abortions to other states who require the information through warrants. The bill is an attempt made by the California legislature to protect women’s privacy following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade. Following the Supreme Court’s decision, women’s federal right to an abortion has been left been left to individual states to choose whether abortion is legal. Several republican states had trigger laws in place to immediately prohibited abortions in the event that Roe v. Wade was overturned. 

Concerns have been raised regarding the legal repercussions for individuals who pursue abortions in other states to their own. There are fears that law enforcement and the State Attorneys general might seek information regarding these individuals’ attempts to obtain an abortion outside state lines. According to current California law, records of people must be disclosed if a search warrant is granted based on specific criteria. With regard to inquiries into those who seek abortions or those who perform them, the latest bill forbids the issuing of such a warrant. The new law also forbids local law enforcement from providing information about the cellular whereabouts of women who travel to California for abortions or helping with investigations into abortions.

The bill states, “it is the public policy of the State of California that a corporation that is headquartered or incorporated in California that provides electronic communications services shall not provide records, information, facilities, or assistance in response to legal process issued by, or pursuant to, the procedures of another state or a subdivision thereof to investigate or enforce any violation, the investigation or enforcement of which would implicate the fundamental right of privacy with respect to personal reproductive decisions.”

The bill also declares that if a state wants to obtain a search warrant to identify an individual or their communication information, the state is required to demonstrate that the information does not pertain to inquired into abortions. The Californian State Attorney general is permitted to bring legal action against any California-based business who chooses to provide sensitive reproductive information following a request made by another state.

California Governor Gavin Newsom has not yet signed the bill. To become law, the Governor is required to sign the bill by September 30, 2022.