The California Assembly’s Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would not prosecute women whose babies die of pregnancy-related causes up to one week after birth, alarming several pro-life groups.
Assembly Bill 2223 amends the preexisting sections of the state’s Health and Safety Code. If adopted, the bill would “would delete the requirement that a coroner hold inquests for deaths related to or following known or suspected self-induced or criminal abortion, and would delete the requirement that an unattended fetal death be handled as a death without medical attendance.”
Finally, the bill “would prohibit using the coroner’s statements on the certificate of fetal death to establish, bring, or support a criminal prosecution or civil cause of damages against any person.”
The bill was introduced by Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, a self-described “lifelong community organizer” who previously worked on Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns. She recently filed for reelection in the East Bay’s Assembly District 14.
Wicks said she wrote AB 2223 to prevent women from facing “investigation, prosecution, or incarceration” due to pregnancy-related outcomes, including abortions.
“Anti-abortion activists are peddling an absurd & disingenuous argument that #AB2223 allows parents to harm infants when, the truth is, the part of the bill they’re pointing to is about protecting & supporting parents who are experiencing the grief & trauma of pregnancy loss,” she wrote in a Twitter thread defending the bill.
“This isn’t a bill about infanticide,” Wicks added. “This is about protecting Californians who suffer pregnancy loss from being unjustly investigated, prosecuted or incarcerated.”
The assemblywoman said the bill only applied to women whose babies die after birth due to a pregnancy-related cause. Notably, AB 2223 states that “many pregnancy losses have no known explanation.”
While testifying before the Judiciary Committee, Wicks gave the example of an unnamed California woman who was prosecuted after she had to deliver her baby via c-section at 8 months following a car accident.
Under AB 2223, “a person shall not be subject to civil or criminal liability or penalty, or otherwise deprived of their rights, based on their actions or omissions with respect to their pregnancy or actual, potential, or alleged pregnancy outcome, including miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion, or perinatal death”
The CDC defines perinatal mortality as a “late fetal death at 28 weeks or more and early neonatal death under age 7 days.”
Additionally, the bill states that “a person who aids or assists a pregnant person in exercising their rights under this article shall not be subject to civil or criminal liability or penalty, or otherwise be deprived of their rights, based solely on their actions to aid or assist a pregnant person in exercising their rights under this article with the pregnant person’s voluntary consent.”
The bill also replaces the word woman with gender-neutral terms like “individual” or “pregnant person” throughout the text.
The Assembly Judiciary Committee recommended the bill be passed on April 5. The committee’s vote was split along party lines, with the six Democrats voting in favor and two Republican members voting against. The last Republican member did not vote on the proposed policy.
The Life League, a pro-life and family values campaigning organization, said “more than a hundred individuals opposed AB 2223 in committee — in person or by phone” and that the “supporters of the legislation were pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood, NARAL and the ACLU.”
The California Family Council objected to the removal of civil and criminal charges and the ill-defined term “perinatal death” which they say can be interpreted as “the death of a baby from 22 weeks gestation to 7 days post-birth or more.”
Craig DeLuz of the California Republican Assembly wrote “lawmakers have written a bill that provides protections for infanticide.” He asked members of his party to oppose the bill, which has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Health.