On September 27, 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed two bills (summarized below) that collectively aim to strengthen privacy safeguards for individuals seeking abortion services. After the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to overturn the right to abortion guaranteed under Roe v. Wade, many states quickly moved to enact very strict abortion bans and criminalize those who provide, support access to and receive abortion services. In response, California’s actions aim to preserve abortion access to individuals providing and receiving abortion services in California and to protect medical privacy information.
AB 1242 (Prohibits Cooperation With Out-of-State Entities): Effective immediately, this law prohibits law enforcement and California corporations from sharing information or assisting in an investigation related to a lawful abortion with out-of-state entities, as well as prohibits law enforcement from knowingly arresting a person for aiding in a lawful abortion in California. Among other things, the law prohibits:
- California courts from authorizing wiretaps, pen registers and other searches for the purpose of assisting other states with investigations related to providing, facilitating or obtaining abortion services that are lawful in California; and
- California businesses that provide electronic services, such as email and private messaging, from providing information to out-of-state entities that seek to enforce anti-abortion laws.
AB 2091 (Keeps Medical Records Private): The now effective law requires that medical information related to an individual seeking or obtaining an abortion not be disclosed for the enforcement of another state’s laws that ban or limit abortion access. Specifically, the law prohibits a health care provider, health care service plan, contractor or employer from releasing medical information relating to individuals seeking abortion care in response to a subpoena or request from an out-of-state individual or entity that seeks to interfere with a person’s rights under the Reproductive Privacy Act. It does not prohibit the disclosure of such medical information if requested to assist with medical treatment. The law further authorizes the California Insurance Commissioner to impose a civil penalty of up to $10,000 on insurers that violate these medical disclosure prohibitions.
The newly signed laws set the stage for a November vote to enshrine abortion rights directly into California’s Constitution under Proposition 1.
1 California Health and Safety Code 123460-123468.