Navigating California's Abortion Laws: Controversies, Ethical Considerations, and Social Work Perspectives

Published: 2024-01-30
Navigating California's Abortion Laws: Controversies, Ethical Considerations, and Social Work Perspectives
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Law Ethics Abortion Social work
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 880 words
8 min read

Cases of unplanned pregnancy have raised controversial debates about the various events when the mother decides to keep the pregnancy and the consequences she would face when she opts for an abortion. Unmarried mothers evaluate options such as settling with the baby's father, establishing a mutual relationship to co-parent, or proceeding as a single parent. Currently, most fathers seek custody of the children when they feel that they may take better care of the baby than their mother (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2012). Nevertheless, joint custody is a more viable option to raise the baby with support from parents and close relatives. Despite these options, some people face social, economic, and health challenges that lead them to terminate their pregnancy through abortion. This paper assesses common factors that lead to abortion, the underlying controversies over abortion laws in California, and ethical considerations.

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The US Supreme Court included the right to abortion in the Constitution through the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 (Guttmacher Institute, 2020). California's legal system guides options that the clients have following the US Supreme Court ruling in 1992, giving each state the mandate to restrict abortion (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2012). Nonetheless, the macro system acknowledges that it cannot outlaw all abortions due to extreme circumstances such as conception from rape or incest. In California, abortion laws grant women fundamental rights to abortion if the pregnancy threatens the patient's life or health.

Fetal viability is a severe concern of the abortion laws in California. The law consents to abortion for the non-viable fetus, a fetus that cannot survive outside the mother's uterus. Once a pregnancy becomes viable, the patient has limited chances for abortion, and the law mandates the professionals to provide alternatives. According to the state constitution, a fetus gains viability when it attains a 500-gram weight during the 23rd week of gestation (Guttmacher Institute, 2020). In such cases, the law allows social workers to assess the rationale for abortion through a case-by-case analysis. California provides public funding for medically approved abortions to support women in protecting their lives.

Qualified professionals must perform legal abortions in California. Otherwise, the mother and the practitioner may face criminal charges. Surgical abortions are riskier and the state only allows practitioners with valid licenses to perform the abortion (Guttmacher Institute, 2020). The law protects practitioners from unnecessary license suspension. Medication abortions are less dangerous than many healthcare professionals can administer, including nurse midwives, licensed nurses, and physician's assistants. The law limits these abortions during the first pregnancy trimester.

Moreover, underage women who pursue abortion for their unplanned pregnancies must provide written consent to the social workers and provide evidence that their parents or legal guardians consent to the procedure. Minors whose parents object to the abortion are allowed to seek justice from the juvenile court through a signed petition that provides reasons for the abortion (Guttmacher Institute, 2020). The court maintains confidentiality and plans for a hearing within three days to settle the conflict. The court assesses the minor's maturity knowledge base about the pregnancy and consequences of the abortion to grant the petition. Moreover, the minor gets this judgment if abortion is in the best interest. However, emancipated minors who married or served in the military have a right to seek an abortion without parental consent.

The social workers may refuse to perform an abortion on the clients due to religious beliefs or unlawful practices. Unlawful abortion for a minor is a misdemeanor in California, whose penalty includes a 30-day jail term, monetary fine, or both (Guttmacher Institute, 2020). The law protects the doctors who refuse to practice abortion since their actions are not penal. Moreover, the law allows healthcare facilities to decide to provide or disengage from abortion and related care without any legal liabilities.

Controversies about abortion result from the positive and negative emotions that society has concerning the topic. From a personal stance, the fetus has the right to live. However, this conception should not prevent the mother from choosing their health and future life. The moral watchdog in society focuses on the evil against the unborn child; however, it fails to understand the mother's viewpoints, the challenges, and fears to keep the pregnancy (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2012). Therefore, as a social worker, I uphold ethical standards in my course of work; however, I may compromise on some moral issues based on the mothers' factors to establish the need for abortion.


Conclusively, California provides laws that illegalize abortion unless the conception is extreme, and keeping the baby would damage the mother's life psychologically and physically. Social workers are indebted to help their clients understand these laws and make their decisions based on their feelings and values. These professionals provide alternative options to the clients, such as adoption, and explain their consequences to help them decide. The NASW offers codes of ethics that demand social workers to protect life as the core purpose. The California abortion laws are mundane to the social workers to ensure they respect the clients' decisions, give them autonomy to make decisions, provide less harmful options to abortion, ameliorate life quality, and provide honest disclosure of available information.


Guttmacher Institute (2020, Dec 09). An overview of Abortion Laws.

Zastrow, C., & Kirst-Ashman, K. K. (2012). Brooks/Cole Empowerment Series: Understanding Human Behavior and the Social Environment. Cengage Learning.

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Navigating California's Abortion Laws: Controversies, Ethical Considerations, and Social Work Perspectives. (2024, Jan 30). Retrieved from

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