What You Need to Know About Abortion Laws in California

A women’s fundamental right to an abortion is protected by California state law. Here’s what you need to know about abortion laws in California.

Abortion is defined as any medical treatment intended to induce the termination of a pregnancy – thus, not producing a live birth. California abortion laws are generally considered to be less restrictive compared to those of other states.

Is Abortion Legal in California?

Abortion is legal under California state law. Both teens and adults may receive legal abortions in California. Additionally, in California a woman has the right to get an abortion for any reason. However, California law does place limitations on up to what point a pregnant woman can terminate her pregnancy and who can legally perform abortions.

Yet, since the landmark case Dobbs v. Jackson, a pregnant woman’s right to an abortion is not federally protected. This means that each state has the power to pass laws that prohibit or permit abortion. California has strong laws protecting the right to abortion.

How Late Can You Have an Abortion in California?

While women do have the fundamental right to terminate their pregnancy, California does impose limitations on abortion access. Specifically, a woman has the right to abortion access in two cases:

  • The fetus is not yet viable, or
  • Abortion is necessary to protect the life and/or health of the mother

In other words, the State of California cannot deny or interfere with a woman’s fundamental right to an abortion prior to fetus viability or when necessary to protect her health.

While California does not pinpoint a specific cut-off date for legal abortions, a woman cannot receive abortion services once the fetus has reached viability. A fetus is considered to become viable when it is able to survive outside the mother’s uterus without extraordinary medical measures. Doctors are able to determine when a fetus has become viable, however, this does vary case-by-case. In most cases, a fetus reaches viability around the 23rd week of the pregnancy. During the third trimester, a woman can get an abortion only if the pregnancy poses a significant risk to the woman’s health or life.

Who is Allowed to Perform Abortions in California?

Only licensed medical professionals can provide a surgical abortion in the state of California. On the other hand, abortions by medication can be provided by numerous healthcare professionals, such as licensed nurses and practitioners, nurse midwives, and physician’s assistants. However, medication abortions can only be legally conducted during the first trimester of the pregnancy. According to Health and Safety Code Section 12364, it is illegal for abortion is performed by an unauthorized individual.

Is Partial-Birth Abortion Legal in California?

Partial-birth abortion is defined as an abortion procedure where the fetus is removed intact from the mother’s body. In this procedure, a doctor would deliver a substantial portion of the living child outside of his or her mother’s body, only to terminate the fetus. Partial-birth abortion is prohibited by the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. The constitutionality of the law has been upheld by the Supreme Court in the 2007 case Gonzales v. Carhart. Partial-birth abortion is controversial and widely considered to be inhumane and cruel. It is illegal in California and throughout the United States.

While partial-birth abortion is illegal, this does not mean all abortion procedures are illegal. A woman’s fundamental right to an abortion through other procedures still stands. However, a partial-birth abortion itself is illegal.

Related: Birth Control Laws in California

FAQs About Abortion Laws in California

Can a minor get an abortion in California?

If the pregnant individual is a minor, she still has a constitutionally protected right to consent to an abortion without parental permission. A minor’s reproductive information cannot be shared with parents or legal guardians without the minor’s signed consent.

Can college students in California receive abortion services?

Under CA Educ Code § 99251 (2019), California public universities, such as UCs and CSUs, will be required to provide abortion by medication techniques at university student health centers starting January 1, 2023. This will expand access to non-surgical abortion, as well as cater to other needs of pregnant students on campuses.

Related: Women’s Reproductive Rights in California

How can I access abortion services in California?

To ensure a woman’s access to maternity and abortion services, California requires all state-regulated private health plans, including employer and individual plans, to cover all abortions without medical justification, prior authorization, or referrals. The state covers all abortion services with state-only funds. California also has free or low-cost programs to provide abortion services for women from low-income backgrounds.

Related: 7 Reasons Why Reproductive Rights are Important

Contact Her Lawyer

If you or a loved one would like to know more about California’s abortion laws, get connected to an attorney with one of our Women’s Rights Attorneys today!