Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, May 5. I’m Justin Ray.
As The Times has reported, California intends to become a haven for those seeking reproductive health care in America if the U.S. Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion overturning Roe vs. Wade becomes the law of the land. This may make the state a target, as it has been in the past for its progressive laws on immigration, the environment and other policy areas.
One way that people can attack the state is through misinformation and disinformation. A misinterpretation of a California bill has already gone viral online.
The misinformation appears to have originated from multiple questionable websites that published stories claiming that California bill AB 2223 legalizes infanticide. One site said it would “legalize the murder of children up to nine months gestation and in the week(s) after birth.”
The false claims have been posted and reshared thousands of times on Twitter with language such as, “California introduces bill to legalize infanticide before and after birth”; “Killing babies up to 28 days old!”; and “An abortion bill that will essentially legalize a form of infanticide.” (When asked for a response to the tweets, Twitter said the posts were “not found to be in violation of the Twitter Rules,” adding that “our misinformation policies apply to COVID-19, civic integrity and synthetic and manipulated media.”)
What does the bill actually do?
The bill, which you can read here, removes the requirement that a coroner has to investigate “deaths related to or following known or suspected self-induced or criminal abortion.” The bill prohibits using a coroner’s statements on the certificate of fetal death “to establish, bring, or support a criminal prosecution or civil cause of damages against any person.”
“Basically the whole point is we want to make sure that if you do experience a miscarriage, if you experience a stillbirth, if you experience a self-induced abortion, you have a self-induced abortion, that you are not criminally prosecuted for that,” said Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, the Democrat representing the East Bay and one of the bill’s sponsors. But it still allows authorities “to be able to investigate the facts of a newborn child’s death, including whether the child was born living and when and how the child died.”
She brought up two recent cases in the state that prompted the bill: Chelsea Becker, a Central Valley woman who was charged with murder after delivering a stillborn baby who tested positive for methamphetamine (a judge dismissed the charge last May); and Adora Perez, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison for “manslaughter of a fetus.” (The sentence was overturned in March.)
“Those are the types of things we’re trying to stop, especially when we now live in an era of ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ where, who knows what’s happening?” Wicks said. “You look at the examples of Chelsea and Adora in California in the year 2022. We actually do have to put in statutes to ensure that women are protected in these circumstances.”
The section that appears to have caused controversy states, “Notwithstanding any other law, a person shall not be subject to civil or criminal liability or penalty, or otherwise deprived of their rights, based on their actions or omissions with respect to their pregnancy or actual, potential, or alleged pregnancy outcome, including miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion, or perinatal death.”
The word “perinatal” seems to have sparked the misinformation. The section was amended on April 6 to read “perinatal death due to a pregnancy-related cause.” Wicks says, “Anti-abortion activists are peddling an absurd and disingenuous argument that this bill is about killing newborns, when ironically, the part of the bill they’re pointing to is about protecting and supporting parents experiencing the grief of pregnancy loss.”
Wicks says this legislation is one of the ways the state is preparing to help women in America access reproductive care.
“What we will not do in California is sit back while the rest of the nation is experiencing what they’re experiencing,” Wicks said. “What we’re going to do is make sure that we’re ready for the 1.4 million women that we expect to come to California.”
And now, here’s what’s happening across California:
Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.
Why so many people in L.A. are heading to this hidden modern utopia by the sea: “The stress of the drive just fades away when you open the car door, hear the ocean and settle by the fire.” Fontana News Room
A 23-year-old man was booked on charges of assault with a deadly weapon after he allegedly tackled Dave Chappelle while carrying a replica handgun with a knife during the comedian’s performance at the Hollywood Bowl late Tuesday. Here are the stunning moments when Chappelle got tackled. Fontana News Room
How the scandal-scarred Magic Castle is trying to pick up the pieces. A 2020 Times investigation found an array of claims about bad behavior at the castle. Among those accused of misconduct were the venue’s management, staff and performers. Reporter Daniel Miller reveals that since the investigation, Magic Castle has made many changes. But are they enough? Fontana News Room
University artwork burned at Sonoma State president’s home tied to sex harassment scandal. Sonoma State University President Judy Sakaki and her husband often tell the harrowing story of how they escaped the 2017 Tubbs fire. What they don’t often disclose is that nearly $85,000 in artwork donated to the university was among the items destroyed when the massive wildfire burned her home to the ground. Fontana News Room
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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
California just launched a new program to help first-time home buyers with a down payment. The program — called California’s Forgivable Equity Builder Loan — “allows qualified, first-time buyers to borrow up to 10% of a home’s purchase price, and have the debt forgiven if the buyer lives in the home for five years,” writes Alexa Mae Asperin. Fox LA
CRIME, COURTS AND POLICING
The damage created by expert testimony. Author Michael Lewis has an interesting podcast in which he explores the function of trust in society. In his latest episode, he explains how expert testimony has resulted in countless wrongful convictions. He also explains that former gang members are — despite their trepidation — participating in the criminal justice system in an effort to help defendants. Pushkin
The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating two recent incidents in which off-duty LAPD officers fired bullets into their neighbors’ apartments. No one was injured in either shooting, though the neighbors were home in one of the incidents, according to LAPD Chief Michel Moore. Fontana News Room
HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
More than four decades after San Diego Police Officer Archie Buggs was fatally shot during a traffic stop, a Superior Court judge has overruled Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to deny parole to the shooter. In a ruling dated April 22, San Diego County Superior Court Judge David Gill said Newsom’s reasoning in reversing a state parole board’s decision to grant Jesus Cecena parole was not supported by the evidence. San Diego Union-Tribune
California’s population continued to decline after falling for the first time on record during the COVID-19 pandemic. California’s most populous counties saw sizable declines in population during the first year of the pandemic, census data show, highlighting how the state’s housing crisis and other demographic forces are reshaping two of its largest cities. Fontana News Room
Robert Evans wouldn’t approve of the man playing him on TV. He would be wrong. Better known for enigmatic intensity, Matthew Goode captures the manic joy of the Paramount chief in making-of-“The Godfather” drama “The Offer.” Fontana News Room
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Los Angeles: Sunny, 82. San Diego: Overcast, 71. San Francisco: Overcast, 63. San Jose: Overcast, 78. Fresno: Sunny, 95. Sacramento: Overcast, 86.
Today’s California memory is from Lindy Maynes-Kolthoff:
It was the summer of 1977 in San Gabriel. One day I was washing my 1977 Mustang II when a stranger walking down the street struck up a conversation. The man told me that he was visiting California for the first time. He then said to me that he had been told there were mountains close by, but he had been here for a month and hadn’t seen any yet. I assured him the mountains were only five miles away. He didn’t believe me because the smog was so bad they couldn’t been seen. Thank goodness that has changed.
If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)
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