If the Supreme Court rules that Mississippi’s ban on abortions beyond 15 weeks is Constitutional when it decides Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women Health next year—or if SCOTUS overturns Roe v. Wade altogether—26 states plan to ban abortions outright.
In an effort to counter that outcome, California clinics and members of the legislature—with the support of Governor Newsom—unveiled a plan Wednesday that would make California a sanctuary state where women from across the U.S. can come to receive reproductive care, with the state covering expenses for the procedure and possibly for travel and lodging.
A coalition of more than 40 abortion providers and advocacy groups called the California Future of Abortion Council released a list of 45 recommendations Wednesday for the state to consider if Roe falls, ending 48 years of law as we know it.
The authors of the document state, “It is imperative that California take the lead, live up to its proclamation as a ‘Reproductive Freedom State,’ and be ready to serve anyone who seeks abortion services in the state.”
As the Associated Press reports, this isn’t just another far-flung, Golden State fringe fantasy. San Diego Democrat and State Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins helped write the proposal, and she personally penned the letter that serves as its preamble.
Newsom, meanwhile, not only strongly backs the plan, but he formed the organization himself and tells the AP that he intends to include some of its suggestions in his January budget proposal.
“We’ll be a sanctuary,” Newsom said.
Regarding women who are likely to come to California from other states seeking abortions, Newsom added, “We are looking at ways to support that inevitability and looking at ways to expand our protections.”
California already pays for abortions for many low-income residents through Medicaid and is one of only six states that require private insurance companies to cover abortions. Wednesday’s report recommends that California reimburse abortion providers for the expenses of out-of-state patients seeking the procedure here, including transportation—down to the cost of gas—as well as accommodations and childcare for those whose income is low enough that they would qualify for Medicaid if they were California residents.
While the state doesn’t gather abortion statistics—and it’s not known how many women would want to take advantage of such a California sanctuary—pro-choice research group the Guttmacher Institute says 132,680 abortions were performed in California in 2017, or about 15 percent of all abortions nationally. Planned Parenthood, which accounts for about half of California’s abortion clinics, said it served 7,000 people from other states last year.
Fabiola Carrion, the interim director for reproductive and sexual health at the National Health Law Program, tells the AP that the out-of-state abortions are likely to be later-term procedures, which are more complicated and more expensive. Carrion says that a massive influx of women seeking such procedures “will definitely destabilize the abortion provider network.”
The proposal also asks legislators to help clinics bulk up their workforce in anticipation of such an influx by giving scholarships to medical students who pledge to offer abortion services in rural areas, help them pay off their student loans, and assist with their monthly liability insurance premiums.
“We’re looking at how to build capacity and build workforce,” Jodi Hicks, CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, tells the AP. “It will take a partnership and investment with the state.”
While the AP notes that “money won’t be a problem for state-funded abortion services for patients from other states” because “California’s coffers have soared throughout the pandemic,” leading to a record budget surplus this year and a predicted $31 billion surplus next year, it remains to be seen how many Californians will agree with that assessment of how tax dollars should be spent.