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Abortion and the Law in California

Abortion and the Law in California

Picture of Chuleenan Svetvilas

California has the strongest legal protections for abortion in the nation. There are no waiting periods, parental notification requirements, or restrictions on publicly funded abortions, unlike many other states. As a result, California has earned a reputation as a "pro-choice" state.

But having the legal right to an abortion does not necessarily mean a woman has access to an abortion - even if there are more than 500 abortion providers in California. According to a 2010 report by the NARAL Pro-Choice California Foundation, "41 percent of California counties do not have an abortion provider, while 91 percent have at least one CPC [crisis pregnancy center]." (Nationally, the Guttmacher Institute says, in 2008 87 percent of U.S. counties had no abortion provider.)

CPCs seem like legitimate women's health clinics, but their goal is to persuade women to continue their pregnancies and prevent abortions. They typically do not offer abortions or abortion referrals. NARAL claims that there are more than 200 CPCs in California.

"Part of the challenge in California is that [CPCs] act like clinics but they are not actually clinics," says Parker Dockray, executive director of the California Coalition for Reproductive Freedom. Dockray says CPCs in California are very sophisticated and some of them are actually licensed clinics with medical staff so it can be very difficult to figure out that they are not really medical clinics.

In San Francisco, Supervisor Malia Cohen introduced legislation in August to prohibit CPCs in the city from making false or misleading statements to the public about pregnancy-related services. In October, the board of supervisors passed the "Pregnancy Information Disclosure and Protection Ordinance."

Nationally reproductive rights are under attack. In the first six months of 2011, 80 abortion restrictions were signed into law in 19 states. And California has its own personhood initiative that the California Civil Rights Foundation has submitted to the Attorney General's office for the 2012 election. The title and summary is expected to be issued by the Secretary of State any day now. Then the signature gathering can begin.

As a California Health Journalism fellow, I propose to examine the current state of abortion rights in California, particularly women's access to this medical procedure.

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