Arizona Abortion Providers Could Get Special Licenses To Practice In California

A bill introduced in the California legislature Wednesday would allow abortion providers in Arizona to quickly obtain temporary medical licenses to practice in the Golden State ― an effort Democrats say is necessary to keep up with an influx of patients from states that have outlawed the procedure.

The proposal comes two weeks after the Supreme Court in Arizona, which shares much of its western border with California, ruled that a 160-year-old law criminalizing nearly all abortions can go into effect, overriding an existing 15-week ban.

Members of California’s Legislative Women’s Caucus and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) introduced the bill at a press conference Wednesday, explaining that Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes recently got in touch with her California counterpart, fellow Democrat Rob Bonta, about the idea.

“She had the courage to put out the call to neighboring states to support Arizona doctors and patients, and that’s what we are responding to,” state Sen. Nancy Skinner, bill author and caucus chair, said of Mayes.

The 1864 law resurrected in Arizona, she continued, originally passed when “women did not have the right to vote, and when it was legal for husbands to beat their wives.”

Later on Wednesday, lawmakers in the Arizona House voted to repeal that abortion ban, and now await a vote from the state Senate.

Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, which operates abortion clinics in California counties along the Arizona border, was already seeing 10% of its patients come from out of state. Now, Newsom said Wednesday, that figure is likely to rise.

Members of Arizona for Abortion Access, the ballot initiative to enshrine abortion rights in the Arizona State Constitution, hold a press conference and protest April 17.
Members of Arizona for Abortion Access, the ballot initiative to enshrine abortion rights in the Arizona State Constitution, hold a press conference and protest April 17. Rebecca Noble via Getty Images

“This Arizona law is the first border state law that will directly impact the state of California, and rather than just acknowledging that fate and future, we’re trying to get ahead of this law,” he said.

Newsom and the Legislative Women’s Caucus said at Wednesday’s press conference that they’re hoping to expedite the passage of the bill ahead of June 8, when Arizona’s abortion restrictions are set to kick in.

Mayes said her office is exploring all potential legal avenues to stop the “outrageous” abortion ban from going to effect before then.

If California lawmakers pass their provider access bill, it would remain in effect in California through November, when Arizonans may be set to vote on a constitutional amendment to protect abortion access in their own state.

“We made a longstanding promise to be a refuge state for anyone seeking to exercise their rights, and we intend to keep it,” Assembly Majority Leader Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, vice chair of the caucus, said Wednesday

“So to the Arizona people of childbearing age and those who love and support them, we have your back ― at least until you get the chance to reverse this attack on your rights on the Arizona ballot this November,” she continued.

Advocates for the new California legislation said the bill is nonetheless a temporary solution. When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, they also created a patchwork of abortion access laws across the country, as nearly two dozen states have opted to highly restrict access to abortion care.

“It is unfortunate that Arizona women will be forced to travel long distances out of their own state away from their support network to seek health care, but I am proud that California is stepping up to offer assistance,” Dr. Tanya Spirtos, a gynecologist and president of the California Medical Association, said at Wednesday’s press conference.

“I just want to be clear ... it is not good enough. No one should have to travel outside of the state they live in in order to get care,” Jodi Hicks, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said after Spirtos spoke.

Newsom’s office said last month that since the fall of Roe, California health care providers have performed 12,000 more abortions than would normally be expected, and more than half the visitors to California’s abortion resource website were from out-of-state.