California Lawmakers Consider Bill to Protect Abortion Doctors From Lawsuits in Pro-Life States

Robin Marty, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

This week, the California Assembly’s Judiciary Committee considered a proposal that would protect the assets of abortion doctors fleeing malpractice lawsuits in other states like Texas, which has effectively banned abortions when a fetal heartbeat has been detected by relying on citizen lawsuits against practitioners to enforce the legislation.

AB 1666 was introduced by Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, a Democrat from Livermore, and sponsored by Planned Parenthood and the American Association of University Women.

In her fact sheet on the bill, Bauer-Kahan argued that abortion providers and patients need to be protected from “civil actions and financial retaliations” in other states.

“AB 1666 protects all those who could be sued as defendants in actions involving reproductive rights by prohibiting seizure of their financial assets here in California,” the document states. “Put more plainly, if a judgment or penalty goes through a California court, a patient or provider’s assets here in California would be shielded from seizure.”

The bill’s language, the California Family Counsel says, is dangerously broad and could protect doctors fleeing civil suits involving women who have died in botched abortions.

“Allowing doctors or nurses with assets in California to completely dodge civil liability for medical malpractice, especially that which may severely harm or kill a woman, is unjust and is unconscionable,” Constitutional Attorney Dean Broyles, President of the National Center for Law and Policy wrote against AB 1666 prior to the hearing.

“It is possible for California to both permit women to obtain abortions and simultaneously hold doctors and other health care providers accountable for their negligence and recklessness which causes harms to women, but AB 1666 does not do that,” he added.

“AB 1666 is premised on the fallacy that the Legislature can simply wave away comity and constitutionally prescribed reciprocity among courts of different states when it disagrees with other states’ restrictions on abortion,” attorney Matthew McReynolds of the Pacific Justice Institute- Center for Public Policy wrote.

He noted that the bill’s fact sheet “refers in passing to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution, with seemingly no comprehension of the Clause’s import or the cascading consequences of declaring a new cold war among the states with competing tax and liability shelters.”

Susan Arnall of the Right to Life league also charged that the bill “violates the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution on its face.”

“Article IV, Section 1 states: ‘Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State.’ The Supreme Court has explicitly applied the Full Faith and Credit clause to judgments as recently as 1998.”

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