Following the release of leaked drafts of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion earlier this week on abortion law, namely, overturning Roe v. Wade, Governor Gavin Newsom and other Californian leaders vowed to not only keep California on track to becoming an abortion haven for people out of state seeking the procedure, but to “fight like hell” against the supposed silencing of women.
Currently, 13 states have trigger laws that would outlaw abortion if the Supreme Court officially overturns Roe. They are all either Western or Southern states, including Texas, Utah, Missouri, Louisiana, Tennessee, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Mississippi. Five others, including neighboring Arizona, West Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Alabama all have pre-Roe abortion bans that may also come into effect. Another 10 would likely ban abortions before fetal viability, including high population states such as Florida and North Carolina. With over half of all states either banning or likely to add restrictions to abortions in some capacity, as well as many likely to look into partial bans or switch to complete bans, such as what Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has vowed, many women across the country may be looking for a safe place to have abortions done soon.
With many states critically underserved as well, and California having the highest number of abortion clinics in the country, many have been looking at the Golden State for assistance. With lawmakers knowing that Roe would be on the ropes in the near future, plans were put into place last year to make California an abortion sanctuary state. The California Future of Abortion Council’s report specifically has 45 recommendations for the state in a sanctuary capacity, including funding many abortion groups to provide care, funding support infrastructure at abortion clinics, improving Medi-Cal abortion policies, give more protections to those seeking abortions, and even help fund travel, lodging, and procedure costs for those otherwise unable to afford the procedure.
These recommendations flooded California this year by way of bills, law changes, direct laws, and a host of other ways, including funding boosts for abortion clinic expansions. Bills coming up have including ones that push more philanthropic funds for low-income and out-of-state abortions, making it legally easier to get abortions, making travel and expenses cheaper for those wanting abortions, and other bills that would dramatically increase the number of people seeking abortions in California. Some have even estimated that abortions in California could increase from 46,000 to over 1 million thanks to tourists from states such as Texas coming in.
It has even started happening, with some bills, such as SB 245, which ends abortion procedure co-pays, already having been passed and signed into law this year.
California working to rapidly become an abortion sanctuary state
In a joint statement made earlier this week, Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego), Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) and Governor Gavin Newsom reaffirmed their stance to make California an abortion safe haven, noting that “California will not stand idly by as women across America are stripped of their rights and the progress so many have fought for gets erased. We will fight. California is proposing an amendment to enshrine the right to choose in our state constitution so that there is no doubt as to the right to abortion in this state. We know we can’t trust the Supreme Court to protect reproductive rights, so California will build a firewall around this right in our state constitution. Women will remain protected here.”
As a result, abortion clinics across the state are scrambling to expand, increase capacity for patients, and bring on more health professionals. Bills such as those allowing nurses to perform the procedure without doctor supervision are helping, but for many, it’s simply the short amount of time that they have until Roe is likely to be overturned at the federal level, in which to make a lot of changes.
“More clinicians, providers and staff were hired,” said Planned Parenthood Vice President of Affairs Lauren Babb this week. “Health centers are also being renovated to have space for more exam rooms. We are expecting to see [initially] between 200-500 patients a week from out of state if abortion is outlawed in other parts of the country. It is a little intimidating to know those numbers and influx will happen, but it’s certainly not anything we’re not ready for.”
However, others are struggling.
“If we saw even another few dozen in a week, we would have to have some women wait outside in full view of protesters who would likely be there,” explained Angela Guzman, an abortion clinic worker, to the Globe on Thursday. “California should really come up with a viable longer term plan. It’s great cities like LA have so many, with access being reasonable in most large cities. Tourists flying in will reach them no problem. They might be overwhelmed at the clinics, but it will work.”
“The big worry is the first clinics that people driving or taking the bus into the state reach. Flying is expensive, so many will be taking these options. If the state was smart, they would put up clinics across from Primm in Nevada, or Baker down the 15, one in Blythe for those coming in from Arizona, and maybe one across from Reno in the Lake Tahoe area in case Nevada does something and to catch more people coming in from Idaho. Otherwise, there’s going to be a lot of uncoordinated jams at these clinics.”
Those opposed to California becoming a sanctuary state state have also vowed to do what they can to stop California from improving the ease of abortions.
“We’ll try and stop them from passing these laws wherever we can,” explained Kathy Weber, a San Bernardino County anti-abortion group leader who assists women who choose to give birth after previously wanting an abortion. “You can be assured that we won’t make this easy for them. California shouldn’t have to be the grease trap of the US when it comes to getting women who can’t have abortions elsewhere.”
More laws, law changes, and abortion center expansions are expected in the lead-up to the likely official end of Roe v. Wade later this year in California.
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