California positions itself as a “refuge” for the right to abortion

California political leaders said on Wednesday they would work to make the state a sanctuary for women seeking abortions if a Supreme Court ruling allowed the procedure to be banned in more conservative parts of the country.

The proposal, which was released with the support of Gov. Gavin Newsom and leaders of both California legislatures, calls for increased funding for abortion providers and dozens of other measures to make it easier for female clients to access. abortion services and provider compensation. . It also includes a recommendation to fund the procedure for low-income women who come to California for abortion services.

Toni G. Atkins, the president of the California Senate, whose office helped prepare the proposal, said the details of funding abortions for out-of-state women should be negotiated in the state legislature. next year, but could be a mix of public and private funds.

“We consider this to be an incredibly critical moment in the history of women’s rights,” Ms. Atkins said in an interview. “We want to let people know that we are going to be part of the solution, that we are a beacon.”

California’s proposals were in part spurred by developments in the much-divided United States Supreme Court, which last week appeared poised to enforce a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. , a decision expected next year which could have repercussions throughout the country.

Many of the proposal’s recommendations call for increased funding for abortion services, regardless of the Supreme Court ruling. But political leaders recognize that the state could see much greater pressure on abortion providers if the court decides to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Twenty-one states have already put in place anti-abortion laws that could go into effect if Roe were overturned, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that defends the right to abortion.

Anti-abortion activists have spared no criticism of California’s efforts. Lila Rose, the California president of Live Action, an anti-abortion group, said the state’s proposal was wrong. “More like a slaughterhouse than a sanctuary” she wrote on twitter. “Horrible.”

Mary Rose Short, director of outreach for California Right to Life, an organization that opposes pregnancy termination and tries to change the minds of women who go to abortion clinics, said the proposal to financing abortions for out-of-state women showed that California favored abortion over childbirth.

“We ignore any woman who would like to give birth but who feels financially constrained,” said Ms Short.

About 15 percent of the nation’s abortions are performed in California, slightly more than the 12 percent share of the state’s national population. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that the number of abortions performed in California could increase dramatically if Roe is canceled.

Ms Atkins, who represents San Diego and started her career at a women’s health center, says California has had decades of experience providing abortion services to women in Mexico, where abortion was decriminalized in September. .

She said she was “incredibly optimistic” that the legislature would increase public funds for abortion services next year. Medi-Cal, the state’s medical system for low-income residents, covers nearly half of all abortions performed in the state.

Erin Mellon, acting director of communications for Newsom, said it was too early to say whether the governor’s proposed budget next year would include such funding.

Ms Mellon referred to comments Mr Newsom made this month, in which he said California was a “place of refuge.”

“Not only for 40 million Californians, but also for women and girls across the country and will remain so proudly,” Mr. Newsom said.

Two years ago, Mr. Newsom issued an official proclamation that California was a “state of reproductive freedom.”

The recent report was prepared by Ms. Atkins’ office in partnership with reproductive health organizations such as Planned Parenthood who have partnered up under an umbrella group called the California Future of Abortion Council.

In a statement on Wednesday, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California director Jodi Hicks said her organization had “already felt the impact of restrictive abortion laws”, serving 7,000 out-of-state clients in the past year, including patients. of Texas after a law came into effect three months ago that essentially prohibited abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

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