Understanding Abortion Laws in California

by Ambrosio Rodriguez | Jun 04, 2018 | California Law

Is it legal to get an abortion in California? Thanks to the landmark Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, women do currently have the right to make decisions about their own reproductive lives. However, many states, including California, do place some restrictions on when, where, and how women can make the choice to terminate a pregnancy.

What is Abortion?

In California, abortion is defined to mean “any medical treatment intended to induce the termination of a pregnancy except for the purpose of producing a live birth.” The procedure has actually been legal in the state since 1967. Thanks to the Therapeutic Abortion Act, California became the first state in the country to formally legalize abortion. Back then, abortions were still highly regulated in the state. In fact, a woman could only get an abortion if a hospital committee determined that the pregnancy would seriously harm the woman’s mental or physical health.

Even though the Therapeutic Abortion Act permitted some abortions, California state law still made it a crime for women to secure abortions on their own terms. That changed in 1969 when the California Supreme Court held that a woman has a “fundamental right” to make decisions about her own reproductive health.

A few years later, the Court also dismantled parts of the Therapeutic Abortion Act that required a woman to get hospital permission before undergoing the procedure. By the 1970s, the only restriction that remained was the one requiring the procedure to be performed by a doctor in a hospital.

Since the early 1970s, California has continued to expand protections for women seeking abortions in the state.  In fact, in 2002, the state cemented certain protections guaranteed by Roe v. Wade into California state law. Today, there are very few limitations on when, where, and how a woman can secure the procedure. This is particularly true when California’s abortion laws are compared to other state laws across the country.

When Can Women Get an Abortion in California?

In California, women have the right to get an abortion up until the fetus becomes viable. As a result, there is no black and white “cut off” for when a woman will no longer have the right to choose to abort. Generally speaking, however, a fetus will be considered viable somewhere between the 22nd and 24th weeks of gestation.

Abortions can still be performed post-viability if the pregnancy threatens the mother’s life, health, or well-being.

Can Minors Get Abortions in California?

Yes. However, California law does place some restrictions on these types of procedures. Restrictions may apply if a minor is not emancipated. If a minor is not emancipated, she must have written consent of at least one of her parents, a court order in her favor, or face a medical emergency.

Who Can Perform an Abortion in California?

Decades ago, women in California could only get an abortion in a hospital if it was performed by a licensed doctor. Today, things are very different. Abortions can legally be any medical professional with hospital committee approval and specialized training, including:

  • Physicians
  • Surgeons
  • Nurse-midwives
  • Nurse practitioners, and
  • Physician Assistants.

What Are the Penalties For Illegal Abortions?

Abortions are considered illegal if they are performed:

  1. Without the mother’s consent
  2. When the mother is not an unemancipated minor;
  3. After the fetus is viable; and/or
  4. By an unauthorized individual.

When abortions are performed illegally in California, it is the medical professional (or other person) who may be on the hook for criminal penalties.

Illegal abortion involving an unemancipated minor is a misdemeanor, punishable by:

  • A maximum of 30 days in jail, and/or
  • $1,000 in fines.

Need Legal Help? Call the Rodriguez Law Group

Do you have questions about abortion law in California? Contact the Rodriguez Law Group to schedule a free consultation with our skilled legal team. We know that abortion is a sensitive subject and that you may not be sure about what rights you have. Our Los Angeles criminal attorneys can review your specific situation and explain your legal rights. Call today to learn more.

To learn more, call our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm at 213-995-6767 or visit our contact us page to send us an email.