Understanding California Abortion Laws

Abortion is one of the most hotly-contested political issues in the country. Whether you are for it or against it, chances are you have a strong opinion about whether abortion should be legal. Thanks to Roe v. Wade, women have the right to choose whether or not to terminate a pregnancy. However, there are limitations placed on this right. Most regulations are imposed by state law. California boasts some of the country’s least restrictive abortion laws.

What is Abortion?

Abortion is defined in California’s Reproductive Privacy Act to mean “any medical treatment intended to induce the termination of a pregnancy except for the purpose of producing a live birth.” In other words, abortion means ending a pregnancy before it comes to term and a child is born naturally.

When Can an Abortion Can be Performed?

Women in California have the “fundamental right” to make the choice between giving birth or getting an abortion. However, there are some restrictions on when women can exercise this fundamental right to choose. Abortions may be prohibited when (a) the pregnant woman is a minor or (b) the fetus is viable.


Women who are under the age of 18 are not expressly prohibited from getting an abortion. However, unemancipated minors must have the consent of a parent or guardian before the medical procedure can be done.


Abortions in California are prohibited when a fetus is viable. When is a fetus considered viable? While the point in the pregnancy where a fetus will be viable will generally be the same, the answer will depend on each specific case.

The Reproductive Privacy Act explains that a fetus is viable when:

  1. The good faith medical judgment of a physician
  2. Based on a review of the fact of a specific case and pregnancy
  3. Finds that there is a reasonable likelihood
  4. That the fetus would survive outside of the womb
  5. Without using extraordinary medical measures.

In other words, a fetus will be considered viable when a physician believes that it could survive on its own if it were born at that moment in time.

It is important to note that abortions are not illegal if terminating the pregnancy is “necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.” California does not require a pregnant woman to sacrifice her life for her unborn child’s.

When is Abortion Illegal?

There are limited times when the state may interfere with a woman’s right to choose between giving birth and abortion. Abortion is illegal if (a) the fetus is viable and not a threat to the mother, or (b) performed by an unqualified professional. In California, the individuals who perform unauthorized abortions can face some significant criminal consequences.

Abortions Not Performed By Appropriate Healthcare Professional

Only certain healthcare professionals are authorized to perform surgical and non-surgical abortion procedures in California.  CA Bus & Prof Code § 2253 explains that qualified individuals must have a “valid, unrevoked, and unsuspended license to practice as a physician and surgeon” or other certificate authorizing their participating in the procedure. Healthcare professionals that may secure the proper credentials include:

  • Physicians and surgeons
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Physician’s assistants, and
  • Certified nurse/midwives.

Healthcare professionals who perform or assist with an abortion, but lack the required credentials, can face harsh penalties, including:

  • 12 months in a San Diego jail, and/or
  • $10,000 in criminal fines.

Learn More About Abortion in California

Do you have a legal question about abortion in California? Do you need help fighting criminal charges that are related to an abortion procedure you performed or assisted? Contact the San Diego criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office Vikas Bajaj, APC.

For more than 19 years,  we have been successfully helping clients in San Diego navigate all complex criminal matters. We know that your future is jeopardized by criminal charges and will fight to secure the best possible outcome in your case. Call today to schedule a free consultation.