Photo courtesy of the office of Governor Newsom

Governor Newsom Signs SB 233, Offering Lifeline to Arizona Women Seeking Abortion Healthcare

Newsom signed SB 233 into law, enabling Arizona doctors to travel to California to provide abortion healthcare for women affected by Arizona's restrictive abortion laws. 


On May 23, 2024, Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 233 into law in response to a Civil War-era law restricting abortion that went into effect in Arizona. SB 233 would allow doctors in Arizona to come to California to provide abortion healthcare for women. The bill is just another step in Gov. Newsom’s crusade to combat anti-abortion measures being implemented in other states.


Ever since Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom has made it his mission to defend women’s healthcare across the nation. In April 2024, a reporter asked Gov. Newsom if abortion was really the most important issue on the ballot in November 2024.


“If you care about women and girls and their lives and fate in the future, it’s just so foundational – so remarkably foundational,” Newsom shot back. “I don’t know how it can’t be.”


One year prior to the signing of SB 233, in May 2022, Gov. Newsom lashed out at his own party for not fighting hard enough in Washington, DC, for abortion rights. "Where the hell is my party," an agitated Newsom growled. "Where is the Democratic Party? Why aren't we standing up more firmly, more resolutely? Why aren't we calling this out? This is a concerted, coordinated effort, and, yes, they're winning." One month later, in June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.


When Walgreens made the decision not to distribute Mifepristone in 21 states–even in states where abortion healthcare was still legal, Gov. Newsom was quick to make a move. On March 8, 2023, Newsom announced that the California Department of General Services (DGS) would opt out of the renewal of a contract providing low-cost medication to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) facilities.


In March 2024, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block Florida's 6-week abortion ban enforced after being signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Newsom quickly issued an outraged statement. "Floridians have fewer rights and less control over their own bodies today than they did yesterday – thanks to Governor DeSantis," Newsom said in a press release. "For the past six years, Governor DeSantis has put up a 'freedom' façade so he could systematically cut down people's rights based on his own personal political agenda. Today, yet another right was stripped away from Floridians through Governor DeSantis' anti-rights agenda – millions of Floridians and women in neighboring states with total bans will now no longer be able to access essential reproductive health care on their own terms."


Newsom then made an offer to help women outside of California who are being denied access to abortion healthcare. "California has the resources and support that will help you to exercise your reproductive freedom if you, a resident of Arizona, can no longer receive abortion care in your home state," Newsom said. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 233, a fast-moving measure that will allow doctors from Arizona to travel to California and legally provide abortions to patients from the state, which as of July 29 will have limited access to the procedure. The bill passed the state Senate last week on a 24-10 vote with Democrats and one Republican supporting it. It was authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Oakland.


Newsom felt that the legislation was urgent because of an Arizona Supreme Court decision that resurrected an 1864 law that all but obliterated the right to abortions. That decision will drastically reduce abortion access in Arizona, sending Arizona legislators scrambling to get workarounds and legal challenges in place that could make up for the gaping loss. California Democrats are offering this new law as a possible way to minimize the harm to Arizona women who will soon be seeking reproductive healthcare.


"Today's signing of SB 233 is a testament to California's unwavering commitment to reproductive freedom," Governor Newsom stated. "We are ensuring that women from Arizona have access to the care they need, and that doctors can provide that care without fear of legal repercussions."


The newly signed bill permits Arizona abortion care providers in good standing to register in California and offer their services to Arizona patients. This temporary measure is designed to create a lifeline for women who are now unable to obtain necessary reproductive care in their home state due to the restrictive legal environment.


Jodie Hicks, the President of Planned Parenthood of California, responded by saying, “While anti-abortion extremists continue to attack abortion at every turn and, just this morning, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could deny medical care to pregnant people facing serious complications, California continues to work diligently to protect and expand access to abortion care for any person seeking care in our state, including out-of-state patients. We appreciate Governor Newsom looking at all options in response to the extreme and harmful ruling in Arizona and working with leaders in other states to identify helpful solutions together. Amid this chaotic landscape, any tool at the disposal of abortion providers to make sure care continues for all who seek it in California is welcome.”


As Arizona navigates its legal challenges, California's swift action may offer crucial support for women and doctors in Arizona. The passage and signing of SB 233 underscore California's role as a defender of reproductive health and a haven for those denied care elsewhere.


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