What You Should Know About Your Reproductive Rights In California

With all the impending threats to affordable women’s healthcare, it seems like there is never a bad time to remind ourselves of the history behind our current reproductive rights. We should all know the sacrifices that have given us our current rights, as well as our actual rights in order to defend them. Under California state law, every woman is entitled to birth control, emergency contraception, pregnancy testing, prenatal care, abortion services and sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment. Moreover, every woman is entitled to confidential services—meaning the clinic or doctor cannot share information about your visit with anyone unless you specify otherwise.

Person Holding Medical Pills

In California, birth control is legal for everyone and is the personal and private decision of each person—no one can be forced into using, and no one has to know if you choose to use it. Birth control is available directly from a pharmacist, and emergency contraception can be purchased from a pharmacy without a prescription and has no age restrictions.

If you believe you may be pregnant, you also have the right to a confidential pregnancy test. If you are pregnant, you have several options: you can stay pregnant and become a parent, place the baby up for adoption or have an abortion. If you choose to stay pregnant, it is against the law for schools to treat you differently because of pregnancy or parenthood. You have the right to continue your education at the same school and participate in all activities. You also have the right to privacy; your school cannot reveal your pregnancy or share any information without your permission. You even have the right to go to any medical appointments necessary during school hours and can be excused from school if you or your child is sick.  

Grayscale Photography of Woman Holding Ultrasound Photo

Placing the baby for adoption means giving up legal rights as a parent, as well as responsibilities. For up to three days after birth, parents can drop newborns off at hospitals or fire stations confidentially without consequences.You have the right to get an abortion for any reason until about 6 months into a pregnancy without anyone’s interference. California law also protects your privacy, although you do deserve support from a loved one. There are volunteers who can go with you to your appointment so you do not have to go alone. More information is available at Planned Parenthood. In California, you also have the right to confidential testing and treatment for STDs provided you are at least 12 years of age.  

Now, that’s all well and good, but how did we get to this point?  We have so many rights today that women years ago struggled and sacrificed to gain. Margaret Sanger is the woman who started it all. From birth control to Planned Parenthood, she worked with mostly lower-income, immigrant women and saw their suffering as a direct result of a lack of birth control and affordable healthcare. As a result, she opened an illegal birth control clinic on October 16, 1916, which she was arrested for. Sanger was later released and permitted to open a legal clinic.

person holding pen and writing on printer paper on clip board

In 1939, the Birth Control Federation of America (now known as Planned Parenthood) was created, and it is still open today with clinics across the United States. In 1960, the FDA approved the pill as a form of contraception, and in 1973, Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in America. Before abortion was legalized, illegal abortions were very common, but unfortunately also very dangerous, with women even dying as a result of the operations. The Affordable Care Act provided women across the country with birth control without a copay, making birth control much more accessible and contributing greatly to healthcare gender equality. The steep prices for reproductive healthcare also led to increased risks for lower-income and minority women, who sometimes tried to induce their own abortions or had to go through with unsafe procedures.  

Today, unfortunately, accessible and affordable women’s healthcare is once again at risk with the power held by the Republican party in Congress and Donald Trump’s administration. Defunding Planned Parenthood and repealing the Affordable Care Act would leave millions of women without the healthcare they need and deserve, so we must stand together to defend our rights because every woman has the right to make these decisions for herself.