By ADAM BEAM – Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Democrats have accelerated their plan to make the nation’s most populous state a sanctuary for women seeking abortions, propelled by the release this week of an early draft a US Supreme Court ruling that sparked a wave of activism among the state’s vast network of vendors and advocacy groups.
The draft — which could change when a final ruling is made, 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 measure designed to protect the state from future court rulings and possible federal abortion. ban if Republicans take control of Congress.
On Thursday, Democrats in the state Legislature fast-tracked a bill that would block other states’ laws from imposing civil or criminal penalties on people who perform or facilitate abortions in California, sparking another legal battle probably prolonged on state sovereignty.
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The California Legislative Women’s Caucus has asked Newsom for $20 million to help pay women from other abortion-banned states to come to California for the procedure — a sum the governor could announce in his revised budget proposal. next week.
In just 48 hours after the draft ruling was released, the only nonprofit in the state of California that helps women travel to and within the state for abortions has raised $25,000. – a quarter of its normal annual expenditure – while fielding a flood of calls from people volunteering to donate free rides or accommodation for women who want to end their pregnancies.
For Madilynne Hoffman, the California preparations are heartwarming. The 22-year-old mother of two terminated her pregnancy in December at an abortion clinic in the state’s Central Valley.
When she later returned to another clinic for birth control, she said a protester followed her to her car. This experience, coupled with the court ruling project, inspired her to seek volunteer opportunities at the clinics.
“It’s really saddening to think that women have to fight for their bodies,” she said. “It should just be an automatic right.”
California’s legislative efforts represent the first salvoes of the next phase of the battle for abortion rights, which will be played out between state governments that will have to set and enforce their own rules if federal protections are abolished. Already, Republican-led states like Oklahoma and Idaho have passed more restrictive abortion laws in anticipation of the court ruling.
Democratic-led states like California, meanwhile, are passing laws to expand abortion access.
Democrats who control all the levers of power in state government have drafted 13 bills that would allow more medical providers to perform abortions, create scholarships for reproductive doctors, prevent other states from access certain California medical records and create a fund for taxpayers’ money. help pay women in states where abortion is illegal to come to California to get the procedure. A measure that makes abortions cheaper by banning copayments and deductibles has already been enacted.
Meanwhile, abortion providers are busy hiring more doctors and adding space to accommodate an expected surge 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 completed, this will increase their capacity to 200-500 patients per week.
“We’ve been preparing for this for over a year — and honestly since November 2016,” when Republican Donald Trump was elected president, said Andrew Adams, chief of staff and strategic communications manager for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte.
Abortion advocates are also preparing by bolstering staff and support at pregnancy centers in crisis. These centers, which are often located near abortion clinics and are affiliated with religions, seek to convince women to forgo abortion for 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 requiring them to inform clients about abortion services. The United States Supreme Court struck down this law in 2018.
“We think this is how believers and the pro-life community can really help put our money where we are,” said Jonathan Keller, president and CEO of the California Family Council, which oppose abortion. “No woman should feel like abortion is the best option for her.”
Although abortion is legal in all states, it is not easily accessible everywhere, especially for people who live in poor or rural areas. Across the country, nearly 100 “abortion funds” exist to help these women pay for the travel, accommodation and childcare they need to make their appointments.
Since Monday, a nationwide digital fundraising platform for these groups has raised about $1 million, according to Sierra Harris, associate director of network strategy for the National Network of Abortion Funds.
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 other states, according to executive director Jessica Pinckney. Each woman receives an average of $300 to $400 in assistance.
It doesn’t pay for everything. To fill in the gaps, the group relies on a set of 50 grassroots volunteers who stand ready to offer rides, accommodations and extra cash. Those volunteers include Harris, who lives in Oakland.
Since the pandemic, most of the aid provided by Harris has been in cash. A mother of two young children, Harris recalled a time when she helped buy a plane ticket for another woman so she could travel to have an abortion. The woman was also a mother and later sent Harris a card calling her an “angel”.
The woman said her help allowed her “to raise the child that I have,” Harris said. “I think about it all the time.”
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