Legal Summaries

DISCLAIMER: This reference material on this website is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  This document provides general information, which may or may not be correct, complete or current at the time of reading.  This information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to constitute legal advice or substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney licensed in your state.  For legal advice, please contact an attorney or your institution’s legal affairs or in-house counsel.

Background on California Law

Abortion is first and foremost a health care procedure.  Like all other aspects of health care, abortion care is governed by a complex system of state, federal and local laws, from those regulating the licensure of clinics and the practice of medicine at the state level to federal laws requiring hospitals to stabilize patients experiencing medical emergencies.  The process of locating laws related to abortion and reproductive health care in California reminds us that reproductive health issues are connected to many aspects of our lives.  The Handbook covers statutes located in California’s Family Code, Health and Safety Code, Business and Professions Code, Civil Code, Education Code, Government Code, Penal Code, Probate Code, and Welfare and Institutions Code, as well as regulations promulgated by the boards and agencies charged with interpreting and implementing these laws.

Even with this broad overview, we clearly have not included all relevant laws.  For instance, we touch only briefly on scope of practice for health care professionals, and we do not cover clinic licensure, medical malpractice, or protections for reproductive health workers in this first version of the Handbook.   Our focus on California law necessitates the inclusion of certain federal laws that trump or complement state laws and, therefore, affect California practice, such as the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban and the Born Alive Infant Protection Act; however, we do not provide an exhaustive review of federal precedent.  Finally, we recognize that you may not find clear answers to all of your legal questions in the chapters that follow.  This Handbook provides legal information only (not legal advice or analysis); where legal interpretations and institutional practice may vary or where laws were written to allow clinicians to exercise their professional judgment, we provide only the information available under California’s current judicial, legislative and administrative guidance.

The Right to Privacy in California


Documentation Requirements

Who May Provide and Who May Refuse to Provide Abortions

Rights of Particular Groups and Classifications

Informed Consent and Capacity