Gavin Newsom

Gavin Newsom Is 'Pro-Choice' on Abortion and Nothing Else

A new California law amends the state's ban on out-of-state doctors practicing medicine to allow doctors from Arizona to perform abortions for patients who are also from Arizona.


California has some of the nation's toughest restrictions on the interstate practice of medicine. With very limited exceptions, the state requires that doctors offering any sort of treatment, care, or consultation to California patients be licensed in California.

While the rest of the country is changing regulations to accommodate telemedicine, California forbids out-of-state specialists from doing even remote follow-up appointments or consultations with their California patients.

To lighten this regulatory load, Gov. Gavin Newsom yesterday signed into law Senate Bill 233. It will let out-of-state doctors to quickly get California medical licenses to serve patients there. The only catch is that the doctors have to be from Arizona. And they can only provide abortion-related services. Temporarily. To patients who are also from Arizona.

The law Newsom signed was introduced in response to an April Arizona Supreme Court decision to allow the state's longstanding, near-complete ban on abortion to go back into effect following the U.S. Supreme Court's 2022 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization.

Arizona has since amended its abortion laws to be more permissible. Newsom's signing of S.B. 233 comes a little too late to impact the immediate issue it was passed to address.

That hasn't stopped the governor from taking a victory lap.

"We refuse to stand by and acquiesce to their oppressive and dangerous attacks on women," said Newsom in a statement about signing S.B. 233. "California stands ready to protect reproductive freedom."

For pro-life people (myself included), abortion is a legitimate subject of legal restrictions and prohibitions. That's a position shared by many libertarians in good standing. And from the pro-life perspective, California's effort to undermine another state's restrictions on abortion is condemnable all on its own.

Even pro-choice people should be maddened by the state's incredibly selective liberalization of restrictions on out-of-state doctors practicing medicine in California.

If a doctor licensed in Arizona is capable of performing an abortion in California, that same doctor should also be capable of offering other types of medical care as well. Certainly, there can be no legitimate health or safety reason why that doctor should be allowed to perform abortions, but not less risky or invasive medical procedures.

Even if there were, that can't explain why California's new law would apply only to Arizona doctors and patients. Do Oregon's permissive abortion regulations make Oregonian physicians somehow unable to perform abortions in California?

Clearly, the point of California's new law is designed only to troll Arizona Republican lawmakers.

And one could maybe tolerate California's law as the troll it is if the state didn't also disrespect and deny Californians' ability to make their choices on medical care in so many other ways.

Yesterday, Reason covered the case of Shellye Horowitz, who's forced by California's telemedicine restrictions to travel from her home in rural northern California to Oregon just to do phone consultations with her Portland-based hemophilia specialist.

"It's my body and my healthcare. I should be able to choose to go to a provider I trust. I don't like the fact that my state is limiting my ability to connect with and follow up with a provider of my choice," said Horowitz, who is suing to overturn California's restrictions on out-of-state medical consolations.

Newsom's rhetoric about "reproductive freedom" and protecting women's choices rings pretty hollow in this context. Only on the issue of abortion is he, and California policy makers generally, willing to respect one's freedom to receive medical care of their choice.

When it comes to the state's voluminous other restrictions on patients' ability to consume medical services of their choice, the governor's concern for freedom and choice evaporates.