California Democrats have accelerated their plan to make the nation’s most populous state a sanctuary for women seeking abortions, spurred by the release this week of an early draft of a US Supreme Court ruling that has sparked a wave of activism among the state’s vast network of providers. and advocacy groups.
The draft, which could change when a final ruling is issued, likely next month, would end nearly 50 years of federal abortion protections. Just hours after a leaked copy was released, Governor Gavin Newsom and the state’s top legislative leaders said they would seek voter approval to make abortion a constitutional right in California, a move designed to protect the state from future court rulings and a possible federal abortion. ban if Republicans win control of Congress.
On Thursday, Democrats in the state Legislature expedited a bill that would prevent other states’ laws from imposing civil or criminal penalties on people who provide or assist in abortions in California, setting up another likely protracted legal fight for state sovereignty.
The California Legislative Women’s Caucus asked Newsom for $20 million to help pay women from other states where abortion would be prohibited to come to California for the procedure, a sum the governor could announce in his revised budget proposal. next week.
Just 48 hours after the draft ruling was made public, the only nonprofit organization in the entire state of California that helps women travel to and within the state for abortions raised $25,000, a quarter of its normal annual spending, while receiving a flood of calls from people volunteering to donate rides or a place to stay for women looking to end their pregnancies.
For Madilynne Hoffman, California’s preparations are comforting. The 22-year-old mother of two terminated her pregnancy in December at an abortion clinic in the state’s Central Valley.
When she returned to a different clinic later for birth control, she said a protester followed her to her car. That experience, along with the court’s draft ruling, prompted her to seek volunteer opportunities at the clinics.
“It’s really sad to think that women have to fight for their bodies,” she said. “It should be an automatic right.”
California’s legislative efforts represent the opening salvos in the next phase of the battle over abortion rights, which will play out between state governments that must make and enforce their own rules if federal protections are abolished. Republican-led states like Oklahoma and Idaho have already passed more restrictive abortion laws in anticipation of the court’s ruling.
Meanwhile, Democratic-led states like California are passing laws to expand access to abortion.
Democrats who control all the levers of power in state government have drafted 13 bills that would authorize more medical providers to perform abortions, create scholarships for reproductive care physicians, block out-of-state access to some California medical records, and create a fund for taxpayers’ money to help pay women in states where abortion is illegal to come to California for the procedure. A measure that makes abortions cheaper by banning copays and deductibles has already been signed into law.
Meanwhile, abortion providers are busy hiring more doctors and adding space to accommodate an anticipated increase in patients. Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, the nation’s largest Planned Parenthood affiliate, is renovating and building new facilities in Oakland, San Jose, Fresno, Visalia and Reno, Nevada. When they are finished, they will increase their capacity from 200 to 500 patients per week.
“We’ve been preparing for this for over a year, and honestly since November of 2016,” when Republican Donald Trump was elected president, said Andrew Adams, chief of staff and head of strategic communications for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte.
Anti-abortion advocates are also preparing, beefing up staffing and support at crisis pregnancy centers. These centers, which are often located near abortion clinics and are religiously affiliated, seek to convince women to forego abortion through adoption or other options.
Some of these centers in conservative states receive tens of millions of dollars in public money. California has been hostile to these centers, passing a law that requires them to inform clients about abortion services. The United States Supreme Court struck down that law in 2018.
“We think that’s the way that people of faith and the pro-life community can really help put our money where our mouth is,” said Jonathan Keller, president and CEO of the California Family Council, which opposes abortion. . “No woman should feel that abortion is the best option for her.”
Although abortion has been legal in all states, it is not easily accessible everywhere, especially for people living in poor or rural areas. Across the country, there are nearly 100 “abortion funds” to help these women pay for things like travel, lodging, and child care they need to schedule their appointments.
Since Monday, a national digital fundraising platform for these groups has raised about $1 million, according to Sierra Harris, deputy director of network strategy for the National Abortion Funding Network.
California has a statewide abortion fund, known as Access Reproductive Justice. The group helps about 500 women each year, about a third of whom come from out of state, according to executive director Jessica Pinckney. Each woman receives an average of $300 to $400 in assistance.
That doesn’t pay for everything. To fill in the gaps, the group has a cadre of 50 core volunteers who are ready to provide rides, places to stay, and extra cash. Those volunteers include Harris, who lives in Oakland.
Since the pandemic, most of Harris’ assistance is in cash. Harris, a mother of two young children, recalled a time when she helped buy another woman a plane ticket so she could travel and have an abortion. The woman was also a mother and later she sent Harris a card calling her an “angel.”
The woman said her help allowed her to “raise the son that I have,” Harris said. “I think about that all the time.”