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In Case You Missed It: Reproductive rights advocate warns about Prop 23

Sacramento – In an op-ed in Capitol Weekly yesterday, Deborah Rotenberg, reproductive rights attorney and former in-house counsel for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, warned voters that the doctor-on-site-at-all-times provision in Proposition 23 could be used by the far-right to limit a woman’s right to choose and “reads like it’s right out of the anti-choice playbook.”

Rotenberg writes that “it’s deeply concerning that a health care labor union in one of the most progressive, pro-choice states in the nation is pushing a ballot measure that could provide new ammunition to anti-abortion zealots in their quest to eliminate a woman’s right to choose.

“While regulations on dialysis providers may seem wholly unrelated to abortion clinics, there is a direct and dangerous connection between Proposition 23 and the ‘TRAP’ laws that are repeatedly aimed at abortion providers as a means of shutting them down.

“TRAP laws (targeted regulation of abortion providers) are burdensome, medically unnecessary laws or regulations designed to increase the cost of operating a clinic or make it impossible to comply with the regulations, resulting in the closure of clinics and impeding access to abortion care.  These laws are often deceptive. On their face they appear to serve a public health or safety interest – but upon closer evaluation, their true purpose is to block access to abortion.

It is precisely for this reason that reproductive health supporters and voters should carefully consider the implications of how a measure like Proposition 23, if passed, could be used to eliminate a woman’s right to choose. If a medically unnecessary and burdensome onsite physician requirement for something as routine and noncontroversial as dialysis centers should pass, that could very well be used as a justification to support a similarly medically unnecessary and burdensome requirement for abortion providers – either in California, or in other states.

Anyone who cares about a woman’s right to choose should take a long hard look at Proposition 23 – because not only is it expensive and unnecessary, it reads like it’s right out of the anti-choice playbook.”


More than 100 groups oppose Prop 23, including the California Medical Association, American Nurses Association\California, and many others because it would jeopardize the lives of dialysis patients by forcing hundreds of dialysis clinics to cut back services or shut down completely – making it more difficult for dialysis patients to access their life-saving treatments. Prop 23 was opposed by every daily newspaper editorial board in California.

Furthermore, this dangerous and costly dialysis measure would make the state’s current doctor shortage and emergency room overcrowding even worse, while unnecessarily increasing health care costs for taxpayers and consumers by hundreds of millions of dollars every year. All of this, in the midst of a global pandemic, threatens to put a strain on necessary health care resources across California.

There are approximately 80,000 dialysis patients in California with failed kidneys who need machines to clean their blood and remove toxins from their bodies. Patients must receive dialysis treatment three times a week for four hours at a time to stay alive. Access to consistent dialysis treatments is so important that just one missed treatment increases patients’ risk of death by 30%. 

Prop 23 is sponsored by the United Healthcare Workers West (UHW) union – the same organization that abused California’s initiative process two years ago by bankrolling Proposition 8 on the 2018 ballot. Prop 8 would have also caused dialysis clinics throughout California to cut back services or shut down, dangerously threatening dialysis patients’ lives.

While unions have the right to try to unionize workers, it’s not right to abuse the initiative system and use vulnerable patients as political pawns – especially now in the face of a public health crisis.

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