California lawmakers send bill shielding pregnant people from criminal charges to Newsom

California lawmakers sent Gov. Gavin Newsom a bill Tuesday that would shield pregnant people from criminal and civil liability in the event of a self-induced abortion, miscarriage or stillbirth.

Assembly Bill 2223, authored by Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, was part of a package of reproductive health-related bills championed by the California Future of Abortion Council.

The bill met with some resistance as critics, including the California Family Council, alleged that it would decriminalize infanticide. While the bill does shield pregnant people from criminal charges for infant deaths stemming from pregnancy-related causes, the bill does not decriminalize the killing of infants.

Newsom has until the end of September to sign the measure into law or veto it.

“Pregnancy criminalization is a widespread, national problem, and California is not exempt from this issue,” Wicks said in a supporting statement included in the Senate floor analysis of the legislation. “Despite clear law that ending or losing pregnancy is not a crime, prosecutors in this state have charged people for homicide offenses for pregnancy loss.”

Wicks was referring to a pair of Kings County cases where women were criminally charged after having a miscarriage. Though charges in both cases ultimately were dismissed, one woman spent 16 months in jail while the other spent nearly four years. In one case, the prosecutor has vowed to bring new charges, according to CalMatters.

Wicks went on to note that other states, such as Texas, have passed laws that are hostile to abortion rights, imposing civil or criminal penalties on those who assist others in obtaining an abortion.

“California must reinforce existing state protections against the criminalization and prosecution of abortion and pregnancy outcomes,” Wicks wrote.

In an opposing statement included in the Senate floor analysis, the Right to Life League, an anti-abortion organization, wrote that the language of AB 2223 is overbroad, and will lead to “a host of unforeseen legal ramifications.”

“The bill potentially de-regulates abortion and overrides existing medical protections for women by creating a class of cooperating individuals unaccountable to state licensing agencies or regulations,” the group wrote.

The league argued that the bill goes further than shielding pregnant people from prosecution, providing “total civil and criminal immunity” to anyone who, legally or no, aids and abets a pregnant person in terminating a pregnancy.

“AB 2223 will chill proper investigations of abortion cooperators (not just the pregnant person) by granting penalties, including attorney’s fees against anyone who even threatens an investigation including law enforcement, medical professionals and mandated reporters,” the league argued.