NARAL Pro-Choice California
Share This

Current Laws


For the last three decades pro-choice women, organizations, activists and legislators have been diligently working to protect fundamental reproductive rights guaranteed by the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. In California, legislation to safeguard and expand upon those rights is among the most progressive in the country. Despite the high degree of importance to women, new gains in the choice movement often go unnoticed by mainstream media. In an effort to make women more aware of their rights, Pro-Choice California has put together a summary of rights under current California law. We hope this will help women make more informed decisions about their reproductive health as well as identify battles yet to be won. Know your Rights!

In California you have the fundamental right to make your own reproductive choices. You have the right to bear a child or to choose to obtain an abortion prior to the viability of the fetus or when abortion is necessary to preserve the life or health of the woman. These rights are codified in the 2002 Reproductive Privacy Act, and will stand in California even if Roe is overturned.


Minors in California have the right to obtain information about contraception options (condoms, birth control pills, diaphragms, etc.). Teenagers also have the right to obtain contraception without an adult’s permission or knowledge. In fact, clinics and health care providers may not give parents any information about their children’s medical treatment, questions or prescriptions of contraception without the child’s consent.

California provides state funding for teenagers to obtain contraception and family planning services, including testing for sexually transmitted infections like HIV/AIDS.

You can go to clinics like Planned Parenthood and obtain contraception without giving them identification and without any parent or adult accompanying you. If you tell clinic providers that you are unable to pay, they will help you obtain free services paid for by the state of California through a program called Family PACT (California's Family Planning, Access, Care, and Treatment program). You do not need to give your real name to obtain this funding.

Minors in California have the right to leave school to obtain medical treatment and/or consultation without their parents consent. This provision allows minors to make decisions about their health while maintaining their privacy.

Minors in California have the right to obtain an abortion without notifying their parents or any other adult. Again, California provides funding through the Family PACT program so if you or a friend needs an abortion, you can get funding for medical treatment without involving a parent or guardian. Though we encourage all young women to talk about their choices with a trusted adult, we know that many teenagers who experience violence at home cannot safely talk to their parents or obtain their help with difficult decisions about pregnancy.

In California all sexuality education must be both medically accurate and comprehensive. Minors have the right to be informed of all topics regarding reproductive health including abstinence, contraception, HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s).


Emergency Contraception (EC)

Women who have been sexually assaulted or who have had unprotected sex can stop a pregnancy from beginning by taking a high dose of a birth control pill. Emergency Contraception (EC) is safe and works if taken within 72 hours (3 days) of unprotected sex. In California, you can obtain EC from a pharmacy (like Walgreens) without going to see a doctor first. If you need EC, call around to local pharmacies until you find one that will provide it over the counter (some pharmacies, like those at Wal-Mart, don’t provide EC). You can also call a clinic like Planned Parenthood and they will prescribe EC for you over the phone. To find addresses and information for the nearest five clinics to your location you can call 1-800-NOT-2LATE. You have the right to obtain EC from a pharmacist without a consultation fee that is above $10 over the original price.

If you are a victim of sexual assault and go to an emergency room for treatment, California law requires that hospitals provide you with information about EC. You do not need to talk to your parents, the police, or anyone else before you can be given EC after a sexual assault.


Insurance & Public Funding

In 1999 Governor Gray Davis signed the Women’s Contraceptive Equity Act, making California one of 11 states to require private insurance plans that cover prescription drugs to cover FDA approved contraceptives as well. This law helps women save untold amounts of money on contraception every year which would otherwise be an out of pocket expense.

California’s Family Planning, Access, Care, and Treatment program (Family PACT) is designed to provide free or very low-cost reproductive health care. This includes pregnancy tests and birth control for low-income women who are uninsured or whose insurance does not provide adequate family planning coverage. Since it started in 1997 Family PACT has helped thousands of women get vital reproductive health care at community clinics and private doctors’ offices throughout the state. Although PACT does not cover abortion or prenatal care it does cover the following services:

  • Pregnancy tests
  • All forms of birth control approved by the FDA
  • Male and female sterilization
  • Emergency Contraception (the "morning-after pill”)
  • Gynecological care such as pap smears and breast exams
  • Dysplasia services (treatment of abnormal or precancerous cells on the cervix)
  • Tests and treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STI’s), such as Chlamydia, syphilis or gonorrhea
  • Screening and treatment for urinary tract infections and hepatitis B
  • Basic infertility screening and treatment

Depending on a woman’s current income, or if she is a minor, all Family PACT services are provided either for free or for a $5 co-pay. To find a Family PACT clinic or doctor in your area, call the California Office of Family Planning’s toll-free referral line at 1-800-942-1054.

The program Medi-Cal also provides funding for health services for low-income and uninsured women, including those who are pregnant and need either abortion services or prenatal care. As California’s version of the federal Medicaid program, Medi-Cal helps thousands of women obtain inexpensive services after learning they are pregnant. You are eligible for Medi-Cal without income qualification if you are pregnant or if you are under 18 years of age.


Hospitals and Health Clinics

Federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) statutes are now part of California state law and provide women on a local level with an increased amount of protection. These laws punish illegal and violent actions taken against clinics, doctors, or patients exercising their legal rights. Protesters who violate the basic civil rights of those seeking to obtain or provide family planning services are now punishable by state law as well as federal law. 

State law now prohibits religiously affiliated hospitals from restricting potential buyers from offering reproductive health care services. In the past some hospitals when merging or selling out to other organizations would impose restrictions on future health care services such as abortion. This served to forcibly pass down a legacy of access denial from hospital to hospital effectively tying the hands of health care providers who would otherwise perform these services.

According to a new Supreme Court ruling local governments have the right to enact ordinances that protect a patient's personal space when entering a health care facility.

Although there are no statewide "bubble” or "buffer zone” laws in California, several major cities have established ordinances to protect patients. But due to the Supreme Court's 2014 decision to strike down a 35-ft. "buffer zone" law in Massachusetts, San Francisco's ordinance was amended to prevent harassment of individuals, excessive noise outside of a facility, or impeding entrance to a facility without explicitly calling for a "buffer zone". Currently patients entering a reproductive health clinic for any reason have an eight-foot "bubble” that surrounds them within a certain distance of the clinic. This "bubble” is a fixed distance in which a person cannot be approached for the purpose of education, counseling, or passing leaflets without the patient’s consent. This ordinance protects patients from being harassed and personally violated when entering or approaching a clinic. It does not prohibit free speech but rather protects personal space and the right to enter a clinic without hindrance. 


Medical Procedures

Legislation signed by former Governor Gray Davis prohibits doctors, surgeons or medical students from performing a pelvic exam on an anesthetized woman without her consent. You have a right to know what a doctor is doing to or for your body at all times and should immediately speak up with any questions or objections. Performing unnecessary procedures without your consent is illegal!

Every healthcare professional is responsible for providing patients with the information necessary to give full and informed consent. Regardless of personal beliefs or affiliations, physicians cannot withhold such information.

All hospitals are required by law to inform you of all your health care options regardless of their abilities to provide them. For example, if you are at a religiously affiliated hospital, they are still bound by law to inform you that they may not provide the services you need.


Share This
© NARAL Pro-Choice California