A Triple Threat: My Thoughts on Three California Bills That Champion for Reproductive Justice
Posted by Antoilyn Nguyen
November 29, 2021
On October 8th, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 453, AB 367, and AB 1171 into law. What does this mean for the fight against sexual violence and the battle for increased access to reproductive healthcare?
California is currently at the forefront of protecting reproductive rights for all of its citizens. With the passing of three major bills — AB 453, AB 367, and AB 1171 — comes a major promise of ensuring that voices of victims of sexual assault and period poverty are being heard and listened to. By making stealthing illegal, ending the “spousal rape exception”, and requiring period products to be put in public school bathrooms across California, these radical new laws will close many gaps in ensuring equity that existed previously. These bills could easily be the hallmarks of protecting reproductive rights and the epitome of what advocates mean when they say they want legislative change.
However, my purpose in writing this isn’t to give an unbiased, news report-like summary or explanations of these policies. I am here to comment on the response of online media/general public on recent events regarding the passage of these bills and critique these policies.
We should highly celebrate this moment in history. We should applaud those who worked so hard to get these bills passed and commemorate what these policies mean for our loved ones and our communities. We should always be sunbathing in the immense joy of each bill’s passing as any step to progress bodily autonomy should be cherished. I’m glad that I haven’t seen any over-privileged, neoliberal individuals shaming people (especially those of marginalized groups and communities) for celebrating this moment because “there isn’t time to celebrate and more work needs to be done.” I distinctly remember this happening when Kamala Harris became vice president and people were gaslighting POC for being happy that an Asian American and Black woman was in office. Luckily, from what I’ve seen, this is not the case for the signing of AB 453, AB 367, and AB 1171 because we have been collectively celebrating these policies together.
With that said, I still want to acknowledge the gaps in the three bills and the plethora of issues that have yet to be addressed. AB 453 and 1171 could be entirely useless if implemented incorrectly in legal spaces such as local courts and state-level courts. Therefore, it is crucial that alongside the celebration of these pieces of legislation, supporters still push for widespread acknowledgment, enforcement, and validation of these laws’ existences. We must also fix the gaps between these bills. For example, AB 367 requires period products to be supplied in schools, but only in women’s and gender-neutral restrooms. By failing to provide menstrual products in men’s bathrooms, the bill excludes trans, genderfluid, and nonbinary individuals from receiving basic human necessities. It is vital that we still fight for gender equity to ensure equal access to healthcare for all. Not only do we need to push for trans-friendly and inclusive legislation, but we also need to advocate, educate, and serve those in our community who are disproportionately affected by sexual abuse and lack access to healthcare.
Because of this, there’s no doubt that we should keep advocating for greater access to reproductive healthcare and for survivors of sexual assault. We have to make it clear that we care about the correct implementation of these policies and that public officials are aware and responsible for listening to them. From outspokenly asking school staff to restock the period products in the restrooms to educating friends about their protected rights, any local actions, regardless of how small, are incredibly helpful. At the state and national level, individuals and groups should encourage the rest of the states to take similar actions.
In short, we should simultaneously celebrate these bills and continue to fight for equity. Any action in support of protecting reproductive health as an individual or group is not obsolete; if we all take actions individually and collectively to prevent sexual assault and promote reproductive justice —whether it be related to supporting AB 453, AB 367, and AB 1171 or not — the world can become more equitable and inhabitable place for all people.