Know Your Rights: Abortion Access in California
Abortion rights continue to be under direct attack across the U.S. This resource addresses abortion rights in California for residents or travelers to the state to access abortion. We will update this page as laws change.
Tap on one of the scenarios in the menu below to learn more about your rights.
Receiving Abortion-Related Care in California
Do I have the right to obtain an abortion in California?
Yes. Pregnant people in California have a fundamental right to choose to have an abortion. This right is protected under both the U.S. and California Constitutions.
California only prohibits abortions after the point of viability, which is when a physician determines based on a good-faith medical judgment that there is a reasonable likelihood the fetus can survive outside the uterus without extraordinary medical measures. Abortions can only be performed after the point of viability if a physician determines based on a good-faith medical judgment that continuing the pregnancy would pose a risk to the life or health of the pregnant person. These determinations are individual to the person and their situation.
If the U.S. Supreme Court issues a decision that limits abortion rights and access, will that decision impact my right to have an abortion in California?
Probably not. California’s Constitution and laws protect the right to choose to have an abortion as a fundamental right. If the Supreme Court issues a decision that limits abortion rights, it will not change California law because the decision will likely only give states the option to restrict or prohibit abortions.
Who may perform an abortion in California?
Doctors, licensed nurses/midwives, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants with proper training can perform abortions in California.
I am not a California resident. Can I come to California to have an abortion?
Yes. California does not have any residency requirements to receive an abortion. This means that if your home state creates barriers that prevent you from having an abortion, or if there are other reasons you prefer to have an abortion in California, you can travel to California to access an abortion.
What if I need help paying for an abortion or travel expenses?
ACCESS Reproductive Justice connects people to free and low-cost programs that pay for reproductive health care for people living in California, traveling to California, or traveling from California to receive an out-of-state abortion.
Can I get a medication abortion using telehealth?
Yes. Many California health centers offer medication abortion, also known as the abortion pill or medical abortion, through telehealth. With telehealth (sometimes called telemedicine), you can talk to your health care provider on the phone or via video chat.
Many Planned Parenthood clinics offer medication abortions through telehealth. Learn more and find a Planned Parenthood clinic near you. You can also access medication abortion through online clinics, such as:
My medical provider refused to provide me with an abortion. Is that legal?
Possibly. An individual medical provider cannot be required to perform or assist in performing an abortion if they have filed a written statement with their hospital, clinic, or other facility explaining that they have a moral, ethical, or religious reason for refusing to participate in the abortion.
My pharmacist refused to fill the prescription for a medication abortion. Is this legal?
Yes. Individual pharmacists may refuse to dispense any drug on ethical, moral, or religious grounds. But the pharmacy must still ensure that you have timely access to your prescribed drug. If a pharmacist refuses to fill your prescription, the pharmacy should find another pharmacist who will dispense the medication you need.
There are people protesting outside of my abortion clinic. Is that legal?
Protesting, holding signs, shouting, and distributing literature are permitted. However, no one may use physical force, threat of force, or physical obstruction to interfere with a person entering an abortion clinic. No one may block a clinic’s entrance, prevent a vehicle from entering the facility, stop patients from walking in, or make it difficult or dangerous to enter or exit the building. Trespassing, vandalism, stalking, or committing acts of violence against an escort, clinic employee, or patient, as well as arson and bombings, are prohibited.
I attend a University of California (UC) or California State University (CSU) school. Can I obtain an abortion at my university’s health center?
Beginning January 1, 2023, all public university student health centers must provide medication abortion services through onsite staff, telehealth services, or contracted outside providers. Public university student health centers are not required to provide in-clinic abortions (also referred to as surgical or aspiration abortions).
Can my private insurer refuse to cover my abortion?
No. California law is clear that abortion care is basic health care, and all insurance providers must cover basic health care. California private insurance plans cannot limit or exclude coverage for abortion. This requirement does not apply to employers that provide “self-funded” health care coverage.
Can my private insurer discriminate against me for having an abortion?
No. California law and the California Constitution prohibit private health insurers from discriminating against you for receiving any reproductive healthcare, including abortions. For example, insurers cannot refuse to provide you with insurance because you had an abortion, nor can they change the pricing of your insurance plan.
Can my private insurer require prior authorization before I obtain an abortion?
Yes. “Prior authorization” means that your insurer may ask you to seek approval from the insurer before you receive a medication or surgical abortion, but your insurer cannot prevent you from obtaining an abortion or refuse to cover your abortion. Additionally, you have a right to receive timely care. Urgent care appointments that require prior authorization must be scheduled within 96 hours (4 days) of your request, and non-urgent care appointments that require prior authorization must be scheduled within 15 days of your request. The process for obtaining prior authorization will vary depending on your insurer’s policies.
What do I do if there is no local abortion provider in my private insurance network?
If there is no local abortion provider in your insurance network, your private insurer has an obligation to refer you to a local out-of-network provider to ensure that you receive the care you need in a timely manner for the same price you would pay an in-network provider.
Can my private insurer require me to receive a referral from my doctor for an abortion?
No, you will not need to get a referral from your doctor to receive an abortion. This means that you do not need to seek your primary care physician’s recommendation to visit a specialist like an OBGYN. Instead, you can make an appointment directly with a specialist. Along with abortion services, insurers may not require referrals for:
- Pregnancy testing and prenatal care;
- Contraceptive services, including sterilization and counseling;
- Sexually transmitted disease screening, prevention services, and treatment; and
- HIV/AIDS screening and prevention services.
Does my Medi-Cal insurance cover my abortion?
Yes. If you are enrolled in Medi-Cal, abortion and related services will be covered, and you will not need to pay any out-of-pocket costs, unless you are enrolled in Share of Cost Medi-Cal. Whether you are enrolled in Share of Cost Medi-Cal or free Medi-Cal depends on your income level. Get more information about Share of Cost Medi-Cal.
Can my Medi-Cal insurance require prior authorization for my abortion?
No, generally Medi-Cal enrollees do not need to obtain prior authorization. The only exception is if you receive a non-emergency abortion that will require inpatient hospitalization.
If I have Medi-Cal, can I seek an abortion from an out-of-network provider?
Yes. Medi-Cal enrollees may seek abortion services from any provider, even if the provider is out-of-network. If you choose to see an out-of-network provider for your abortion, you won’t pay any more than you would if you saw an in-network provider.
Do I need any specific medical justification for my abortion?
No. Neither Medi-Cal nor private insurance plans may require medical justification for your abortion.
What do I do if I do not have insurance coverage or my insurance does not cover abortions?
If you need abortion care, but you do not have any health insurance coverage or your insurer does not cover abortions, you may be eligible for California’s Presumptive Eligibility for Pregnant Women (PE4PW) Program. This program provides temporary Medi-Cal coverage for outpatient prenatal services, meaning pregnancy-related services that will not require an overnight stay in the hospital. You must be a California resident and meet income requirements to qualify for PE4PW.
To begin the process, you will need to visit a Qualified Provider. A Qualified Provider is a Medi-Cal provider who provides prenatal care and who has enrolled in the PE4PW program. Find a Qualified Provider near you.
For more information and instructions, visit the Department of Health Care Services’ information page.
Does my Federal Employee Health Benefit Program cover abortions?
Health plans under the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program only cover abortions when continuing the pregnancy will endanger the patient’s life or when the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.
Does my Peace Corps volunteer insurance cover abortions?
The health insurance plan for Peace Corps volunteers only covers abortions when continuing the pregnancy will endanger the person’s life or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
Does the Indian Health Service cover abortions?
The Indian Health Service only provides abortions when continuing the pregnancy will endanger the patient’s life or when the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. To be eligible for an abortion under the rape or incest exception, the patient must report they were a victim of rape or incest within 60 days of the date on which the rape or incest occurred.
I am a member of the military. Can I obtain an abortion at a military hospital, and will it be covered by my health insurance?
Abortions cannot be performed at any Department of Defense facility, including military hospitals, unless continuing the pregnancy will endanger the patient’s life or the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.
Similarly, the health insurance plan for military members and their families only covers abortions when continuing the pregnancy will endanger the patient’s life or when the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.
Can I request that communications about my abortion be sent to a location other than my usual mailing address?
Yes. You can request that your insurance provider send all abortion-related communications to a specific address. Your insurance plan may require you to make a statement that receiving communications about your abortion in a way other than as you requested would endanger you. However, the insurer cannot require you to provide further information about how and in what ways such communication would put you in danger. Depending on your insurance provider’s policies, you might be able to request confidential communications via telephone, by mail, or by email.
Many insurance providers have online forms that you can find by searching, for example, “[Your Insurance Provider] Confidential Communications Request.” Alternatively, you might choose to contact your insurer through its customer service phone number, and a representative should be able to provide you with details about requesting confidential communications.
If I am married, will my spouse be notified about my abortion?
Generally, no. However, if you are on your spouse’s insurance, your spouse may receive an insurance notification about approval for services, unless you request confidentiality under the Confidential Health Information Act (CHIA). For more information visit CHIA.
Can I have an abortion without my parent’s permission?
Yes. In California, minors have the right to consent to an abortion on their own. You do not need anyone’s permission—not your parents’ or guardian’s, nor your boyfriend’s or partner’s—to have an abortion.
If I am a minor, will my healthcare provider inform my parent(s) or guardian(s) about my abortion?
Generally, healthcare providers cannot inform your parent(s) or guardian(s) that you received an abortion without your signed written consent.
However, if a minor reports sexual assault or rape to a healthcare provider, then the healthcare provider must attempt to contact the minor’s parent(s) or guardian(s), unless the minor is 12 years of age or older and reports rape only, in which case the provider can only report with the minor’s signed written consent.
If a minor reports child abuse, including physical abuse or sexual abuse, to a healthcare provider, then the provider must report the abuse to the police or child abuse authorities. If child abuse is reported to the police or child abuse authorities, the parent(s) or guardian(s) will likely be contacted.
It is up to you to decide whether to share how you became pregnant with your health care provider.
Can I take time off from school to obtain an abortion?
Yes. California public school students may leave school for certain medical appointments, including to have an abortion. You do not have to tell your school why you are going to the doctor or clinic, and they cannot ask about the type of care you are receiving. Schools may call the doctor or clinic to confirm you have an appointment and the time of the appointment. Your school must let you go to your appointment and generally cannot notify your parents. Your absence must be excused and your teachers must allow you to make up any missed assignments.
If I am a minor, can my public school tell my parent(s) or guardian(s) if I leave school to have an abortion?
No. Your school cannot notify your parent or guardian that you are leaving school to get an abortion or require that you get parent or guardian permission first.
However, school personnel are mandatory reporters. If a minor reports child abuse, such as rape or sexual assault, school staff are required to report it to the police or child protective services, who may contact a parent or guardian.
Do I have a right to learn about my pregnancy options, including abortion, in school?
Yes. California public schools and charter schools must teach students comprehensive sexual health education and HIV prevention education at least once in middle school and once in high school. Such education must include information about all pregnancy options, including parenting, adoption and abortion, as well as information about local healthcare resources. Learn more.
Can I be fired for having an abortion?
The majority of employees are expressly protected from being fired, demoted, harassed, having their pay reduced, or otherwise being discriminated against for having an abortion, considering an abortion, or choosing not to have an abortion and continuing the pregnancy. However, there are a few types of employees that may not be covered under these laws, including:
- Certain employees of religious entities like churches, mosques, and religious schools;
- Employees of very small employers. Some of the protections described here stem from state law that applies to entities with at least 5 employees; and others stem from federal law that applies to entities with at least 15 employees. Please contact us if you need help understanding what applies to your workplace.
Can I take sick leave to have and recover from my abortion?
Yes. If your employer provides sick leave, then you can take your accrued sick leave for abortion-related care. In California, employers are required to provide a minimum of 3 days of sick leave each year, which you can use for pregnancy- and abortion-related care. Your employer cannot require you to explain why you need sick leave.
Jails, Prisons, and Immigration Detention Centers
Do I have the right to have an abortion if I am incarcerated in jail or prison?
Yes. You have the same right to access abortion care while you are in jail or prison. While in jail or prison, no one can coerce you into obtaining an abortion or not obtaining an abortion. Prisons and jails also can’t put any barriers in your way, like requiring you to pay upfront or to obtain a court order to get transportation.
If you are incarcerated in a California state prison or county jail, the prison or jail must provide abortion services at no cost. If you are incarcerated in a federal prison, the Federal Bureau of Prisons will pay for the abortion only if the continuation of the pregnancy would endanger your life or if the pregnancy is the result of rape. If you wish, you may receive medical, religious, and social counseling in making your decision.
Can I obtain an abortion if I am a detainee in ICE custody?
Yes. Pregnant detainees in ICE custody, including minors, must have access to abortion services. No one can coerce you into obtaining an abortion or not obtaining an abortion. If you wish to receive an abortion, you must request it in clear, signed writing.
ICE must arrange, at no cost to the detainee, transportation to the medical appointment and, if requested, access to religious or social counseling, including from social services or community resource groups. ICE must cover the cost of the abortion only when continuing the pregnancy will endanger the person’s life or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
Protecting Your Right to Choose Whether to Have an Abortion
If I believe my rights have been violated, what can I do?
If you are having issues with your HMO covering abortion-related services, please contact the California Department of Managed Health Care. For information about how to get help with other kinds of health plans, please visit the California Office of the Patient Advocate.
To file a complaint against a doctor, please visit the Medical Board of California.
To file a complaint against your employer, please visit the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) and/or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
You can also contact us if you have any more questions or believe your rights have been violated.