What happens in California with Roe vs. Wade now dead?

Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the landmark federal abortion rights case Roe vs. Wade, access to abortion in California will continue to be protected under state law and those rights will likely be expanded soon by Democratic leaders.

The state has been preparing for an influx from areas of the country where bans will be resurrected for the first time since 1973, with various bills and budget proposals calling for millions to be set aside for abortion services for the uninsured, workforce programs to increase providers and to assist patients traveling from other states. The Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports reproductive health and abortion rights, said 26 states will ban all, or nearly all, abortions now that the landmark case has been overturned.

“You will see the impact of the spillover from these other states,” said Cary Franklin, the faculty director at UCLA’s Center on Reproductive Health, Law, and Policy, which released a report this month estimating that 8,000 to 16,000 more people will travel to California each year for abortion care.

That includes up to 9,400 more people from antiabortion states seeking care in Los Angeles County alone, according to the UCLA report. That would put additional pressure on California’s abortion providers, creating a residual impact for residents seeking reproductive care even if the state’s laws remain untouched, Franklin said.

California law grants anyone of reproductive age “the fundamental right to choose to bear a child or to choose and to obtain an abortion.” That includes minors, who under state law, can consent to an abortion without their parent’s knowledge.

The state allows a woman to have an abortion up until the point that a physician determines “there is a reasonable likelihood of the fetus’ sustained survival outside the uterus without the application of extraordinary medical measures” or if the procedure is necessary in order to “protect the life or health of the woman.”

State law does not stipulate the exact point in a pregnancy when viability occurs, instead allowing a physician to make that determination based on “good faith medical judgment.” In most cases, doctors have considered a fetus viable at 24 weeks. Most women seek abortions early in their pregnancies, with nearly 93% of procedures in 2019 occurring before 13 weeks’ gestation, while less than 1% were after 21 weeks, according to federal data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data does not designate when an abortion after 21 weeks is the result of a medical condition.

California requires Medi-Cal, the state’s healthcare program for the poor, and private plans to cover the cost of abortion. In March, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill requiring health insurers licensed by the state to cover the full cost of an abortion, without a co-pay, deductible or other cost-sharing that can, on average, range from $300 for a medication abortion to nearly $900 for a procedural abortion, according to the California Health Benefits Review Program.

“California has robust protections,” Franklin said. “So losing the federal constitutional protection will not strip Californians of needed rights to access.”

Earlier this month, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), introduced a constitutional amendment that would ask voters to enshrine California’s abortion protections in the state Constitution. Senate Constitutional Amendment 10 would prohibit the state from denying or interfering with a person’s “reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions, which includes their fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives,” according to the text of the amendment.

SCA 10 cleared the state Senate this week and is not in the Assembly. The proposal must pass the state Senate and Assembly with two-thirds approval in each house before the June 30 deadline to place a measure on the November statewide ballot.

“This effort, in addition to the legislative package brought forward by the Legislative Women’s Caucus, is essential to showing California is meeting this moment,” said Jodi Hicks, president of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said in a statement. “That California recognizes, no matter what the Supreme Court decides, healthcare, including abortion, is a right.”

California’s abortions laws have long been targeted by antiabortion and religious groups, which say the state’s protections go too far.

“The sad reality is that California already has some of the most accommodating abortion laws and services in the nation,” the California Catholic Conference of Bishops said in a statement. “And by providing extensive funding for abortion services without any corresponding equitable funding for pregnant women and mothers, the state exercises a destructive, coercive power in favor of ending innocent lives.”

The Legislature sent Gov. Gavin Newsom a budget last week that included millions for expanding abortion services, including $20 million to support a state Abortion Support Fund that will provide money for airfare, lodging or gas money to pregnant individuals, including those seeking care from out of state. Newsom has pushed for additional funding for abortion services, saying California will “not stand idly by as women across America are stripped of their rights.”

Atkins said the state should be prepared to help as many women as possible who turn to California, as providers have already reported an increase in abortions sought by residents who live in Texas and other restrictive states.

“Having an abortion should be up to the person to decide,” Atkins said. “Just as they make many other important health decisions every day for themselves and their families.”

Atkins said abortion access is not something that many people think about until it’s needed.

“And that’s maybe the privilege we’ve had for 50 years, but now a whole generation of women are going to have to think about it and particularly those that don’t live in California or states like California,” she said.

Abortion rights are protected under the California Constitution in two ways. The California Supreme Court held in 1969 that women have a fundamental right to choose whether to have children based on a right of privacy or liberty in matters related to marriage, family and sex.

“The court did this interpreting ‘liberty’ in the California Constitution, just as the U.S. Supreme Court did four years later in Roe v. Wade,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Berkeley Law.

In 1974, the state Constitution was amended to include the right to privacy, which the state Supreme Court found seven years later included the right for a woman to choose an abortion.

“California has been at the forefront of protecting abortion rights and is continuing to lead the way,” said Elizabeth Nash of the the Guttmacher Institute. “Abortion opponents are already thinking about where they go to next.”

Nash said that top of the antiabortion agenda is seeking a national abortion ban by obtaining control of Congress and the presidency. Nash acknowledged such a move would be difficult given the 60 votes needed to pass legislation in the U.S. Senate.

“But even talk of a national abortion ban is cause for serious concern,” Nash said.

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