Author: Samantha Fang

Healthcare for Everyone: Sacramento, California Becomes a Sanctuary City for Transgender Individuals

Transgender individuals’ access to gender-affirming care is increasingly under attack. In response, various states are protecting access to gender-affirming healthcare through shield laws. While shield laws vary by state, the laws have two primary goals: (1) to protect transgender individuals, their families, and their medical providers against such attacks and (2) to protect access to gender-affirming health care. For instance, if an individual travels from a state where gender-affirming healthcare is banned and receives that care in another state, a shield law can protect the recipient and/or provider of that healthcare against civil or criminal charges from the state where healthcare is banned.

Currently, the makeup of shield laws in the United States is as follows:

  • 11 states and the District of Columbia have shield laws protecting access to gender-affirming healthcare,
  • 3 states have a shield executive order protecting access to gender-affirming healthcare,
  • 36 states and 5 territories have no shield law or policy protecting access to gender-affirming healthcare, and
  • 24 states have state bans or restricts gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youth.

In 2022, California passed SB 107, a shield law protecting families of transgender youth under 18 from being criminally prosecuted if they travel to California with their children to obtain gender-affirming healthcare. On Tuesday, March 26, 2024, Sacramento, California, the state’s capital, took that protection one step further: the Sacramento City Council unanimously approved a resolution to protect transgender individuals by declaring the City of Sacramento a sanctuary city. As the City of Sacramento is already a sanctuary city for immigrants, transgender individuals would receive the same protections as immigrants— that no city resources would be used to detain individuals seeking gender-affirming healthcare or cooperate with other jurisdictions to enforce their laws criminalizing gender-affirming healthcare.

The Sacramento City council proclaimed the City as a sanctuary city in preparation of “future legislation that may criminalize those providing or seeking gender-affirming care” as well as its values of equity and inclusion: “It is important for the City of Sacramento to be proactive in reiterating our commitment to transgender rights and equal protections for transgender [individuals] by declaring ourselves a sanctuary city and a place of safety for transgender [individuals]. This resolution would also resolve to ensure the rights of transgender individuals in Sacramento are upheld.”

Sacramento City Councilmember Katie Valenzuela celebrated Sacramento’s adoption of the resolution. Valenzuela posted on X, formerly Twitter, that “[b]y affirming [Sacramento’s] commitment to supporting [the] LGBTQ+ community and ensuring that no city resources or staff time will be used to help enforce these harmful laws in other jurisdictions, the City has taken a step beyond state law and sent a powerful signal to everyone in our community that we are a safe place for everyone.”

Adopting the resolution did not impact the City in any way; it only helped the City. The resolution did not have any financial impact, and it simply guaranteed that none of the City’s resources will be used to enforce laws to restrict access to gender-affirming health care for transgender individuals. As the resolution will better everyone’s lives and has no negative ramifications for the City, other cities and states should adopt similar resolutions deeming their cities or states as sanctuary cities.

Virginia: An Omen of Things to Come for Anti-Abortion Candidates

On Tuesday, November 7, 2023, voters in Virginia demonstrated the importance of abortion (and thus a pregnant person’s right to choose) when Virginia Democrats retook full control of Virginia’s General Assembly. Prior to the election, Democrats were the majority in the Senate (22-18), while Republicans were the majority in the House of Delegates (52-48). All seats were on the ballot on November 7, and the legislative races for the seats were dependent on candidates’ stance on abortion. For instance, Democratic ads featured abortion more than any other issue, while Republican ads focused on the economy, education, public safety, and parental rights.

As Democrats retook full control of the General Assembly, Republicans will be unable to implement new abortion restrictions, specifically Governor Youngkin’s proposed abortion limit. Prior to the election, Governor Youngkin pledged to sign his proposed abortion limit if Republicans maintained control in the Senate and gained control of the House. Youngkin’s proposed plan is to alter Virginia’s current abortion limit to a 15-week limit after pregnancy except for rape, incest, and saving the pregnant person’s life. Virginia’s current abortion policy is that abortion is legal until viability, defined by the Supreme Court of the United States as “the capacity for meaningful life outside the womb, albeit with artificial aid… [not just] momentary survival.” Throughout the election, Democrats have promised that an abortion ban legislation will not be sent to Governor Youngkin’s desk for the remainder of his term in office. They have gone as far as to state that any legislation to limit abortions is “guaranteed to fail in the General Assembly next year.”

Two big organizations, Think Big America and the ACLU of Virginia, donated a substantial amount of money to Democratic candidates. During the week before the election, Think Big America, a nonprofit group affiliated with Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, donated $250,000 to Democrat candidates in the election. The donation was to be allocated as follows: $25,000 each to 4 Democrats running in battleground Senate districts and $150,000 to the Democratic Party of Virginia. The ACLU of Virginia donated just over $1 million to be directed toward direct mail, digital ads, and volunteer outreach to highlight candidates’ positions on abortion in the competitive 5 Senate districts and 6 House districts.

While the ACLU of Virginia’s financial investment was unprecedented in its history for this year’s election cycle, they believed it was necessary as the implications of November’s legislative races would have an effect on abortion access and policy decisions in Virginia. November 7’s election outcome determined whether abortion and reproductive rights will continue to be safe for Virginians, as well as for those from the South who are traveling to Virginia to access abortion care.

Virginia’s election results reverberated elsewhere. On November 7, Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment ensuring access to abortion and other forms of reproductive health care. The amendment included some of the most protective language for abortion access of any statewide ballot initiative since the Supreme Court ruled on Dobbs.

As demonstrated, there are consequences at the ballot box to candidates’ stance on abortion. Overall, about two-thirds of Americans believe abortion should be legal until 24 weeks, a quarter believe abortion should always be legal, and about 1 in 10 believe abortion should always be illegal. As the 2024 presidential race is underway, Republican candidates differ on abortion, with some arguing for a national 6- or 15-week ban and others arguing that the decision should be left to the states.

Regardless of the Republican party’s course of action regarding abortion bans, Senator Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) stated, “[t]he people aren’t with us,” acknowledging that the country is not on board with extreme limits on abortion. Despite Republican candidates wavering on their abortion stance, one thing is for certain: abortion will remain a hot topic in the 2024 presidential and congressional races.