In the past week, California governor Jerry Brown has decided the fate of three legislative bills that have been of particular concern for the Catholic Church in California.
On October 12, Brown vetoed a statute of limitations bill, S.B. 131, that would have opened a one-year window in which people who believed they had suffered sexual abuse years ago but had not sought relief during the legally established statute of limitations could again sue the employing institution. However, the bill only applied to private institutions, not public schools or other government institutions – leading some to believe the bill was aimed primarily at Catholic schools in California.
In his veto message, Brown said:
“What this bill does is go back to the only group, i.e., private institutions, that have already been subjected to the unusual ‘one-year revival period’ and makes them, and them alone, subject to suit indefinitely. This extraordinary extension of the statute of limitations, which legislators chose not to apply to public institutions, is simply too open-ended and unfair.”
Bishop Gerald Wilkerson, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles and president of the California Catholic Conference, said in a statement regarding the veto:
“We are grateful that Gov. Brown chose to veto S.B. 131. It was unfair to the vast majority of victims and unfair to all private and nonprofit organizations. The fact S.B. 131 discriminated against victims clearly played a major role in prompting a veto, but at the same time, we hope the way the Catholic Church in California has responded to the abuse crisis over the last 10 years and ‘walked the walk’ with respect to protecting young people and reporting allegations to law enforcement helped play a role, too.”
The veto of the statute of limitations bill came just one week after Brown signed into law two bills, A.B. 154 and A.B. 980, that will increase the availability of abortion by allowing nurse practitioners and midwives to perform first-trimester abortions and allowing abortions to be performed in primary care clinics. The bills were strongly supported by Planned Parenthood, as abortions can now be performed in 90% of their facilities in California, which qualify as primary care clinics.
The bills were strongly opposed by the Catholic Church, and in a statement on behalf of the California bishops, Bishop Wilkerson said:
“We are disappointed that Gov. Brown has signed A.B. 154 and A.B. 980, which together dramatically increase the availability of abortion in California — the state in which 12% of Americans reside, but 29% of all the nation’s abortions occur. … We oppose abortion, and until it becomes illegal, we will oppose measures which expand it — especially when it is at the expense of the girls and women undergoing the procedure.”