By Natalie Mutz
Advocacy Committee Chair for Santa Barbara Women Lawyers
In May 2022, the Santa Barbara Women Lawyers submitted three letters of support to the State Legislature for three important bills that are currently making their way through the State Legislature. These are Assembly Bill 1666 (Abortion: Civil Actions), Assembly Bill 2091 (Disclosure of Information: Reproductive Health and Foreign Penal Actions), and Senate Bill 1162 (Pay Transparency for Pay Equity).
AB 1666 – Abortion: Civil Actions
AB 1666 is authored by Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan and is a critical measure to mitigate the threats posed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s anticipated reversal of Roe v. Wade.
The bill declares that a law of another state that authorizes a person to bring a civil action against a person or entity that receives, seeks, performs, induces, or aids or abets the performance of an abortion, or who attempts or intends to engage in those actions, is contrary to the public policy of California. The bill, if passed into law, would prohibit the application of that out-of-state law to a case or controversy heard in a California court. It would also prohibit the enforcement or satisfaction of a civil judgment received under that out-of-state law.
SBWL supports the proposition that all people have a fundamental right to access safe, affordable, ethical abortion care and contraception. An important part of SBWL’s mission is to promote gender equality by targeting and eliminating factors that inhibit women in their social and professional pursuits. As law and policy in our country has begun to shift away from the principles of Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, in favor of greater restrictions and even criminalization of abortion procedures, SBWL believes that our state urgently needs to push back with law and policy that supports the fundamental rights of reproductive freedom.
AB 1666 addresses that urgent need. It serves the vital objective of insulating Californians from civil liability for providing or obtaining abortion care and it protects the fundamental right to choose pregnancy and childbirth. It preserves the ability of healthcare providers in our state to give needed advice, education, and services so women can make informed decisions, free of coercion. These objectives, in turn, help to advance and empower women by safeguarding their control over their bodies and their lives. AB 1666 is urgently needed to prohibit the enforcement of out-of-state abortion restriction laws in California. SBWL therefore supports AB 1666 and strongly urges its passage.
AB 2091 – Disclosure of Information: Reproductive Health and Foreign Penal Actions
AB 2091 is authored by Assemblymember Mia Bonta and is another important measure to address the impending U.S. Supreme Court decision concerning abortion.
If passed into law, this bill would prohibit the validation of foreign subpoenas pertaining to a foreign penal civil action (as defined). It would prohibit the sharing of specified information in response to subpoenas related to out-of-state anti-abortion statutes or foreign penal civil actions. The bill would authorize the Insurance Commissioner to impose civil penalties against health insurers who violate the confidentiality of an insured’s medical information. It would also prohibit prison staff from disclosing identifying medical information related to an incarcerated person’s right to seek and obtain an abortion if the information is being requested is based on out-of-state anti-abortion statutes or foreign penal civil actions.
As the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, our state must take steps to support the right of privacy of individuals who come to this state seeking abortion care. AB 2091 ensures that information about individuals who travel to California to obtain an abortion will not be used against them in out-of-state penal civil actions.
AB 2091 serves the vital objective of protecting the privacy, security and confidence of those who come to this state for reproductive healthcare and protecting the fundamental right of reproductive freedom. These objectives, in turn, help to advance and empower women by safeguarding their control over their bodies and their lives. SBWL therefore wrote to the Legislature expressing our strong support for AB 2091.
SB 1162 – Pay Transparency for Pay Equity
SB 1162 is authored by Senator Monique Limón. This bill would make important progress on the struggle for pay equality for women and people of color.
Despite significant advances in California’s equal pay laws, the gender- and race-based pay gap persists. Legislative action is needed to address this gap.
SB 1162 proposes mechanisms that would allow state agencies, employers, and workers to gather data to help close the pay gap. The bill would make three key changes to existing law. First, it would change the type of data private companies are required to report to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Companies would be required to report the median and mean rate of pay for each job classification for each combination of race, ethnicity, and sex. Additionally, it would require any private employer who hires or uses the service of at least 100 temporary or contract workers to submit the same report for that population of employees. Second, it would require DFEH to make each private employer’s report publicly available on its website. Third, the bill would require private companies with 15 or more employees to provide the pay scale information in each job posting and make pay scale information available upon request to any employee who requests the information regarding their current position.
SBWL supports SB 1162 new requirements. By exposing the reality of pay inequity, this bill will address the gender and race-based disparities that continue to drive economic inequality. SB 1162 serves as a critical step in advancing and empowering women in the workplace to negotiate for higher pay and better opportunities. SBWL therefore supports SB 1162 and strongly urges its passage.
How You Can Take Action
Writing letters of support (or opposition) to the State Senate and Assembly about pending legislation of interest is a great way to move the Legislature to take action on important issues. The process is surprisingly simple. You need only create an account at https://calegislation.lc.ca.gov/Advocates/. You can submit a letter through that portal, and urge others to do so. Your voice makes a difference.
Get the latest information about legislative bills covering issues of interest to you by heading to the California Legislative Information Homepage. Use the search pane to type the bill number (e.g., AB1, or SB2). If you don’t know the bill number, you can also search by keyword(s).
Address letters to the bill’s author(s). The author’s name can usually be found at the top of the text of the bill. It’s a good practice to copy the Legislator’s Chief of Staff – and you can find out who that is by googling or calling the office of the Legislator. Even if you cannot find this information easily, it is not a problem. Generally, when a letter is submitted through the portal, a staff person will receive the letter and channel it to the intended recipient.
Keep in mind that the Legislature takes summer recess during most of July. They reconvene August 1 and August 31 is the last day to each house to pass bills. Bills that have passed both houses will be sent to the Governor’s desk to be reviewed in September. Position letters can still be submitted at that phase, but should be addressed to the Governor, rather than Legislators. A Legislative Calendar can be found here.