Attorney General Bonta Testifies at Maryland Cybersecurity Council on California’s Groundbreaking Effort to Protect Digital Information on Abortion

Thursday, September 22, 2022
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Highlights how AB 1242 serves as a model for states to protect patient and provider privacy, shield them from wrongful prosecution

ANNAPOLIS, MD – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today delivered virtual testimony before the Maryland Cybersecurity Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Consumer Privacy to highlight California’s AB 1242. Authored by Assemblymembers Bauer-Kahan, Mia Bonta, and Cristina Garcia and sponsored by the California Department of Justice, the first-in-the-nation legislation currently on Governor Newsom’s desk serves as a model for other states to protect digital information on abortion and shield patients and abortion providers from wrongful prosecution.

Below is Attorney General Bonta’s testimony as prepared for delivery:

Senator Lee.

Esteemed members of this committee.

I am Rob Bonta, Attorney General of the great State of California, and I am honored to join you today to testify about the groundbreaking work we’re leading in the Golden State to protect, preserve, and expand reproductive and privacy rights.

This summer, the United States Supreme Court issued a grave, myopic decision that failed the American people. We cannot afford to fail them, too.

In this new post-Roe reality, those seeking reproductive care deserve more protections. Not fewer.

They deserve more privacy. Not less.

They deserve more freedom. Not prosecution.  

That is why, as the leader of the largest state department of justice in the country — as California’s chief law enforcement officer — I was proud to sponsor first-in-the-nation legislation, AB 1242, authored by California Assemblymembers Bauer-Kahan, Mia Bonta, and Cristina Garcia.

The legislation’s groundbreaking data privacy provisions are crucial — prohibiting tech companies served with search warrants in California from providing digital information to out-of-state law enforcement agencies seeking to enforce anti-abortion laws.

When signed into law, AB 1242 will shield those seeking reproductive healthcare against wrongful prosecution. It will shield those providing reproductive healthcare against wrongful prosecution.

The implications of this legislation cannot be overstated.

In a nation where one-third of women have already lost abortion access…

In a nation where a 10-year-old rape survivor has to cross state lines to access abortion care…

In a nation where Big Tech companies know intimate details about your life, where you travel, who you communicate with, your health status, and what you search for…

We need to enshrine protections to ensure those traveling to pro-freedom and pro-access states never face prosecution for accessing reproductive care.

We need to enshrine protections for their healthcare providers.

We need to draw a line in the sand and stop the unconscionable attempt by anti-freedom states to undermine the Constitution — including the 14th Amendment — as they criminalize and weaponize reproductive healthcare.

Patients and doctors facing jail time for providing and receiving abortion care… We cannot be complicit in this sick perversion of the law. Instead, with AB 1242, we are using the law to preserve freedom.

This legislation does that through four main provisions:

  • First: It prohibits California law enforcement from knowingly arresting or knowingly participating in the arrest of someone for an abortion;
  • Second: It prohibits law enforcement from sharing information related to an abortion with an out-of-state law enforcement agency;
  • Third: It prohibits California courts from issuing search warrants related to the investigation of a legal abortion; and 
  • Fourth: It prohibits technology companies served in California with an out-of-state search warrant from responding unless the requesting agency attests the warrant is not related to an abortion legal in our state.

This means that, once signed into law, if an anti-freedom state wants to use our laws, our law enforcement, or our courts to track the movement and prosecute a woman traveling to California who is seeking abortion care — they couldn’t. They’d be blocked.

They’d be blocked from accessing cell phone site tower location data if they served a warrant to the tech company in our state.

What if they wanted her search history about abortion services? Her emails? Her texts and “DMs”? Blocked, blocked, and blocked again.

What if they wanted local law enforcement in California to arrest her after she left the clinic? To secure materials for their investigation? That’s illegal. No and no.

Her freedom and her privacy — they will be protected here. She will be protected here. Period.

Because in California we know patients don’t deserve cruelty and criminal charges. They deserve compassion and care.

This legislation is a model for data privacy and healthcare freedom in this post-Roe world — and I encourage Maryland’s legislature, and state legislative bodies across the nation, to follow our lead.

This bill has the potential to protect so many lives and help potentially millions of Americans access and administer reproductive care without fear of prosecution. It’s a game-changer for freedom. For unfettered access to healthcare.

In my closing words, I will tell you why — using the powerful Dobbs dissent, Justice Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan wrote. They said, and I quote:

[Dobbs is] the curtailment of women’s rights and of their status as free and equal citizens. . .

Enforcement of. . . draconian restrictions will also be left largely to the States’ devices. A State can of course impose criminal penalties on abortion providers, including lengthy prison sentences. But some States will not stop there. Perhaps, in the wake of today’s decision, a state law will criminalize the woman’s conduct too, incarcerating or fining her for daring to seek or obtain an abortion.

And as Texas has recently shown, a State can turn neighbor against neighbor [emphasis added], enlisting fellow citizens in the effort to root out anyone who tries to get an abortion, or to assist another in doing so.”

The Justices’ words are the summation of this myopic moment and the prophecy of the heartache and hardship on the horizon. But let these words also serve as our call to action. We can pass legislation to avert some of the worst parts of this new reality and protect reproductive freedom and privacy.

California, with AB 1242, proves it. I encourage you and other bodies to prove it as well.

Because unlike in other state houses, in Maryland in California, we refuse to, in the words of the Court and of scripture, “turn neighbor against neighbor.”

Instead, we will “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Protecting them. Caring for them. Welcoming them with open arms.

Thank you, again, for this opportunity to speak with you today. I’m honored to join you and looking forward to the outcome of this hearing.

We are ready and willing partners at the California Department of Justice.

Thank you, and my Special Advisor, Maggy Krell, is here and available to answer any questions. 

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