If you’re a woman — or if you’re simply an individual who supports reproductive rights and sexual health — the Golden State may be the place for you. In recent weeks, California lawmakers have rushed to approve several pieces of legislation that make the state a standout leader in women’s health issues. Here are five reasons you may want to consider moving there:
1. California wants to expand the pool of abortion providers. At the end of last month, the California legislature bucked the national trend and voted to actually expand abortion access instead of limiting it. Under this measure, which is awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) signature, a wider pool of medical professionals will be legally permitted to perform abortions. Allowing nurse practitioners and trained physicians assistants to provide this care will help address the fact that over half of the counties in the state don’t have an abortion provider. Advocates say it’s an important method of ensuring that women will be able to have early abortions, and won’t be forced to delay the procedure until they can travel to get to the nearest doctor.
2. California is working to protect abortion clinics. In addition to allowing a greater number of medical professionals to provide abortion care, California is also working to protect reproductive access in another way. Instead of launching politicized attacks against abortion clinics — a widespread strategy that is forcing dozens of clinics across the country to close — the state is advancing a measure that would make sure clinics aren’t held to unnecessary standards. “This bill will repeal unequal and burdensome building requirements on clinics that provide abortions,” the legislation’s sponsor explained. It’s been approved by the Senate, and awaits a final vote in the California Assembly.
3. California may ensure young adults won’t worry about anyone finding out they got STD tested or had an abortion. This week, California lawmakers approved the Confidential Health Information Act — a measure that will make sure residents don’t have to disclose any “sensitive” health services they’ve received through their insurance. This is important because, when people are under a spouse’s or a parent’s insurance policy, they typically run the risk of that person seeing an itemized list of every type of health service they used the insurance for. Now that Obamacare allows young adults to stay on their parents’ plans until the age of 26, that poses a problem for many young people who aren’t comfortable telling their parents about the sexual health care they’ve received. Many women end up paying for abortions with their own money out of pocket because they’re too worried about this dynamic. If Brown signs this bill, that won’t be an issue in the Golden State anymore.
4. California is taking steps to prevent victim-blaming and cyber-bullying. California is considering a bill that would outlaw “revenge porn” — that is, sexual photos of an individual that are posted online by their angry ex without their consent. Revenge porn is a growing problem and, when it comes to nonconsensual sex, spreading around graphic photos of rape victims has led some of them to commit suicide. “It’s absolutely just a new form of victim-blaming,” the founder of the group “End Revenge Porn” explains. New Jersey is the only other state in the country that currently criminalizes this type of online behavior, so California’s bill — which was recently approved by the Senate — could help pave the way for similar legislation in other places.
5. California just expanded the definition of rape to ensure victims will have justice. On Monday, California finally closed a loophole in a century-old law that didn’t include non-married people in a certain legal definition of rape. Under the old statute, if a woman’s rapist impersonated her boyfriend and forced himself on her while she was unconscious, he couldn’t technically be convicted of rape — even though he could be if his victim was married and he pretended to be her husband. It’s an arcane law that had been on the books since 1872, and the update was long overdue. Still, though, it’s important for states to work on updating their definitions for sexual assault to encompass all victims’ experiences. Too often, outdated policies impact the way that rape victims are treated for decades.
Aside from reproductive health policies, the Golden State has also recently advanced legislation to extend labor protections to domestic workers, make it easier for low-income people to apply for food stamps, impose additional restrictions on fracking, and ban kits that can convert standard firearms to semi-automatics.