California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a pair of bills Sept. 22 that relate to privacy surrounding abortion, and a policy expert commented to CNA that the laws highlight the importance of parent-child communication regarding difficult topics such as abortion.
Kathleen Domingo, Executive Director of the California Catholic Conference, told CNA that the new laws, while “absurd” and harmful, are just the latest in a pattern of performative pro-abortion actions taken by California lawmakers over a period of decades.
"The reality is that this isn't really anything new, and I think this is important for people to know...this has been the agenda of California for decades," she said.
AB 1184 allows insured individuals, including minors, to keep “sensitive services” confidential from the insurance policyholder, generally their parents.
The law requires insurance companies to “accommodate requests for confidential communication of medical information” regardless of whether “disclosure would endanger the individual.” Set to take effect in July 2022, the law specifically mentions “sexual and reproductive health” and “gender affirming care” as potentially “sensitive services.”
California has a parental consent law for minors seeking abortions on the books, but the law is permanently enjoined by court order, meaning minors in California can seek abortions without their parents’ knowledge or permission. Planned Parenthood provides resources instructing teens how to hide abortions from their parents, Domingo noted.
Also signed Sept. 22 was AB 1356, which makes it illegal to film or photograph patients or employees within 100 feet of an abortion clinic “with the specific intent to intimidate a person from becoming or remaining a reproductive health services patient, provider, or assistant.” Domingo said this law could affect pro-life campaigners and sidewalk counselors, who may merely want to film or photograph themselves and their work outside abortion clinics.
Domingo said laws of this kind reinforce the importance of parents and guardians talking to and building trust with their children, and encouraging them to seek their parents’ advice in difficult situations.
"It really comes down to having conversations in your own families, and making sure that your children understand what your values are, and understand that they can come and talk to you if they have situations that are difficult," Domingo said.
"If they know of someone who has a situation, if they themselves get into a situation where they need help, I think more than anything it's just continuing that conversation and making sure are families are equipped to know what to do in those moments, that our parishes are equipped to know what to do, so that if you have a situation where a young woman finds herself in need, she knows who to talk to: our pregnancy resource centers and our pro-life pregnancy clinics up and down the state."
Domingo said while performative pro-abortion laws will likely continue to be passed in California, supporting pro-life alternatives is the best way to combat them.
“That truly is the work that is needed. We can't necessarily combat these laws that keep compounding abortion in California, but we can do the grassroots efforts that we have been doing for almost 50 years in California of helping people one at a time and saving families one at a time."
A group of Republican lawmakers wrote to Newsom before he signed the bills into law, urging him to veto them instead.
“We should be encouraging parents and family to be involved in their children’s lives, not removing them further from it,” the letter reads, which was signed by nine state senators.
They also argued, in a more pragmatic vein, that AB 1184 would put policyholders in the “impossible position” of being financially responsible for bills incurred by their dependent children, but which they have no means of verifying because of the new confidentiality rules.
Newsom’s office heralded the laws as a strengthening of California’s status as a “haven” for women seeking abortions.
“This action comes in the wake of attacks on sexual health care and reproductive rights around the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court’s failure to block Texas’ ban on abortion after six weeks,” a statement from Newsom’s office reads, referring to a pro-life law in that state that took effect Sept. 1.
“California is a national leader on reproductive and sexual health protections and rights, and Governor Newsom’s actions today make clear that the state will remain a haven for all Californians, and for those coming from out-of-state seeking reproductive health services here.”