California prepares to become a sanctuary state for abortion care
As we wait for the Supreme Court to likely overturn Roe V. Wade, California has been preparing to expand abortion care throughout the state. The Future of Abortion Council has been guiding state lawmakers in filling equity gaps in reproductive health care.
While we wait to hear if the Supreme Court overturns Roe Vs. Wade, legislators and activists in California are planning to make this a sanctuary state for abortion access. What does it mean to be a sanctuary state for reproductive rights and how do leaders in the Bay Area and across the state plan to achieve this status?
When the Supreme Court draft decision leaked, Governor Newsom and other state leaders proposed amending the state constitution to protect the right to abortion.
Last month, Newsom appeared with Planned Parenthood Los Angeles saying, "We are going to enshrine that, codify that, as we should, into the state constitution... And we will be presenting that to the voters this November."
But advocates have been working on expanding abortion care since last September. As a response to a Texas law banning abortion after six weeks, 40 organizations across California came together.
Onyemma Obiekea, from Black Women for Wellness Action Project, one of the 40 organizations in the Future of Abortion council, is a steering committee member of the council.
"We are anticipating and we have seen since Texas’s SB8," Obiekea says, "what we're hearing from folks on the ground, is that California is seeing more callers coming in from out of state to seek care...We need to shore up California's infrastructure to welcome those who would come to our state for care."
Last fall, the Future of Abortion Council– or the FAB Council– also took the opportunity to reevaluate abortion care for Californians.
"It was really a reimagining of what care can look like," Obiekea explains.
The FAB council is a diverse group of lawyers, health care providers, and health care advocacy groups willing to challenge each others’ blind spots.
Obiekea remembers meetings of the council where members tackled equity issues in reproductive health care.
"So alright, we sit in this place full of providers but are we going to talk about what the providers look like and what that can mean for the quality of care that folks are getting," she says.
Out of those meetings came the Reproductive Justice Policy Priority Package, a set of bills championed by The California Legislative Women’s Caucus.
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia is the chair of the caucus.
"We realize that with or without Roe being overturned, we already lack access for some of our most vulnerable marginalized communities," she says.
Garcia represents towns in east Los Angeles county and says a right without access, or privacy, is an empty promise.
She says, "We were already doing that work, whether or not Roe is overturned. But we have this new sense of urgency."
Assemblywoman Garcia believes that all 13 bills in the package will become law next year. If Roe is overturned, two bills in the package will take effect immediately. One ensures that out-of-state subpoenas seeking information on individuals needing reproductive health care will not be granted. The other would protect Californians from civil liability for providing, aiding, or receiving abortion care
"Those are important because if Roe is overturned, we want to make sure those privacies are protected immediately for anyone coming in here, from out of state, or anyone providing health care for someone out of state as well.
Another bill, SB 1142, would create a website for individuals anywhere needing abortion care. The site would include links to abortion services, and financial support for transportation, childcare, and lodging. Some companies based in the Bay Area are working on abortion rights, too. Apple, Levi’s, Yelp, and Lyfthave said they will help employees living in states where abortion could soon be illegal find abortion care elsewhere. Planned Parenthood is working with companies to set up a system.
Stacey Cross, CEO of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, says, "Because they don't want to get mixed up in the privacy of this."
Planned Parenthood Mar Monte serves a large part of the Bay Area.
"So there's going to have to be some way," Cross explains, "that there's a third party system set up for an employee to say I live in Austin, because I work in Austin, but I need to get to California. And how can I get the appointment and transportation?"
And how can they get their company’s support without breaching their own privacy?
Meanwhile, local governments are creating their own abortion sanctuary proposals. San Francisco Supervisor Hilary Ronen has taken steps to create a safe abortion access program Which would cover the financial costs of people needing to travel to San Francisco for abortion care. Oakland recently declared itself a sanctuary city for abortion rights. The city council unanimously passed a resolution to expand abortion access to anyone who needs it.