As news of a draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion overruling Roe v. Wade rattled the nation, the Santa Barbara County Republican Party turned its attention to Sacramento.
Abortion access and reproductive rights took center stage this week after POLITICO published a draft opinion authored by Justice Samuel Alito overruling the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision credited with legalizing abortion. According to POLITICO, four justices joined with Justice Alito in voting to overrule Roe v. Wade.
The draft opinion was authored in February, and the Supreme Court has not yet issued a formal opinion. Justices could have changed their minds or altered the working opinion by now.
Still, lawmakers and activists have scrambled to identify how the opinion, if it is formalized, could impact women across the country. And California, a blue state, is not exempt from that conversation.
California is not one of 26 states the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organization, has identified that will restrict or outright ban abortion if Roe v. Wade should be overturned.
But Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative Democrats have vowed to further enshrine the right to abortion access in California’s state constitution in the wake of the leaked draft opinion.
And the Santa Barbara County Republican Party has its sights set on AB 2233, which recently passed the Assembly Health Committee.
The bill, meant to enact civil and criminal protections for a woman who has experienced pregnancy loss, has caused confusion as well as consternation. Opponents have said it could lead to infanticide, meaning the killing of a child after he or she is born.
Bobbi McGinnis, chairwoman of the Santa Barbara County Republican Party, called the leak of the draft Supreme Court opinion an “egregious breach of trust within the court.” But she said the Assembly bill was “of much greater concern for locals.”
Ms. McGinnis said the bill would allow “a mother to end the life of her infant up to 28 days after birth.”
“If it passes the State Legislature and is signed into law by Governor Newsom, it will be the most atrocious law in the United States, and we wonder if it will be challenged in the courts as being against the California State Constitution and the U.S. Constitution,” she said in an email to the News-Press.
However, nonpartisan fact-checkers and the bill’s author have said it will not “legalize infanticide” in California, particularly after a Judiciary Committee analysis recommended a change in wording to make it clear “that ‘perinatal death’ is intended to be the consequence of a pregnancy complication.”
Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, who authored the bill, said the legislation is meant to protect grieving parents from “being unjustly investigated, prosecuted or incarcerated” for pregnancy loss.
“Perinatal loss is included as a type of pregnancy outcome protected under this bill,” Assemblymember Wicks said in a series of tweets last month she said were meant to “debunk some disinformation” about her bill. “This reflects the terrible reality that some parents experience the trauma of losing a baby after delivery as a result of something that happened during their pregnancy.”
“These are tragic situations where parents should be supported — not criminalized,” she continued. “No one should face investigation, arrest or prosecution in the midst of their grief for something that happened during their pregnancy.”
Assemblymember Wicks has also said the bill is meant to protect Californians who assist out-of-state individuals wishing to obtain an abortion in California from “being investigated, arrested or prosecuted,” according to a legislative analysis of the bill.
But Mary Rose Short, the California Right to Life director of outreach, said the bill would give “legal immunity to mothers and anyone who assists them in killing their babies at any time during pregnancy.”
“The bill also allows infanticide because it lists ‘perinatal death due to a pregnancy-related cause’ as one of the types of death for which the mother and her assistants cannot be prosecuted. Neither ‘perinatal’ nor ‘pregnancy-related cause’ is defined in the bill,” Ms. Short said. “As understood in law and medicine, the perinatal period always includes time after a baby is born. Postpartum depression is pregnancy-related. On its face, the bill would give immunity to women who commit infanticide while suffering from postpartum depression.”
An Assembly Health Committee analysis of the legislation said “out-of-date provisions” can give way to the “misuse of power” and prosecution of people for pregnancy outcomes.
“Based on these provisions, health care providers and institutions report people who have just given birth, had an abortion or experienced a pregnancy loss to police, triggering harmful investigations and even unlawful prosecutions, and this threat of criminal prosecution has a harmful effect on individual and public health,” the analysis said.
The bill is co-sponsored by ACLU California Action, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and more who argue it is not a crime to have an abortion, miscarriage or experience pregnancy loss, according to a bill analysis.
The California Family Council and Traditional Values for Next Generations are among those who do not support the legislation over infanticide concerns.