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Republicans Question Bill that Makes Infanticide Hard to Investigate

Last week Republicans in the Senate Health Committee put Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) through intense questioning on a bill they believe handicaps law enforcement’s ability to investigate the murder of newborns. AB 2223 is one of a dozen bills being promoted by Governor Gavin Newsom’s Future of Abortion Council to expand abortion rights in the state, now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade and put the regulation of abortion back in the hands of the people and their representatives. 

AB 2223 limits investigations of infanticide in several ways. First, the bill enables a mother to sue any law enforcement agency that investigates or even threatens to investigate her miscarriage, stillbirth, self-managed abortion, or her newborn’s death from “causes that occurred in utero.” Secondly, the bill removes the requirement that a coroner investigate the death of a premature baby. And lastly, if a coroner does investigate, the bill prohibits evidence of a crime found by the coroner from being used to prosecute the mother or someone assisting her for infanticide or any other crime.

“I’m trying to understand how we can make sure that nothing illegal takes place with the death of a child if an inquiry doesn’t take place,” Senator Melissa Melendez (R-Murrieta) asked Wicks. The bill’s threat of a lawsuit is going to discourage investigations, Melendez explained. “There are going to be cases where we have no idea why the baby died. …This is really opening the door to… authorizing women to do harm to their babies and not face the consequences of the law.”

Wicks said she wasn’t concerned a coroner might decide not investigate the death of a newborn because of the fear of getting sued. “I do not have that concern,” she said. Wicks insisted law enforcement will still be able to investigate a newborn’s death, but Melendez and Grove asked Wicks over and over to show where in the bill that was explained. Wicks didn’t point to any text in the bill to confirm this. 

AB 2223 seemingly allows investigations of an infant’s death unless the death is the result of a mother’s “miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion, or perinatal death due to causes that occurred in utero.” But how are law enforcement officials supposed to know the death of a child was caused in utero, without a thorough investigation? How will the police or the coroner to know a baby was really stillborn without doing a medical examination? And if the coroner does find evidence of infanticide, why can’t the coroner’s report be used as evidence to prosecute anyone? 

This last question was asked by California Family Council’s Director of Capitol Engagement Greg Burt in his hearing testimony against AB 2223. 

“[The bill analysis] says when a coroner does their job and determines the cause of death of a newborn, any evidence of a crime the coroner finds can’t be used (and I quote) ‘to establish, bring, or support a criminal prosecution or civil cause of action seeking damages against any person, whether or not they were the person who was pregnant with the fetus,” Burt testified. “So if the coroner finds evidence that the cause of death was criminal, maybe suffocation, neglect, or drowning, that be used to prosecute anyone for a crime.’ 

Why is that provision in there, if not to make infanticide nearly impossible to prosecute?” Burt asked.

In the end, AB 2223 was approved by the Senate Health Committee by a vote of 7 to 2, with Democrat Senators Eggman, Leyva, Limón, Pan, Roth, Rubio, and Wiener voting yes, and Republican Senators Melendez and Grove voting no. Two Democrat senators, Gonzalez and Hurtado, didn’t vote. 

The bill now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee with a hearing expected in early August when legislators return from summer recess. 

Watch the entire Senate Health Committee hearing on AB 2223 below: 

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