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California Abortion Network Gears Up For Influx If Roe Is Overturned

An exterior of the U.S. Supreme Court building. A crowd of people are assembled at the wide steps leading up to the entrance.
The Supreme Court of the United States.
(Liam James Doyle
/
NPR)
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The United States Supreme Court on Wednesday heard oral arguments in a case concerning a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks. No decision is expected until next year, but if the court lets the Mississippi law stand, that would effectively overturn abortion Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion in the U.S.

Protesters on both sides of the abortion issue hold dozens of signs ranging from "abortion is murder" to "keep abortion legal." They are dressed for cold weather and stand in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Demonstrators gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court as the justices hear arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, a case about a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks, on December 1, 2021.
(Chip Somodevilla
/
Getty Images)

What This Means To Californians

California would almost certainly leave abortion rights in place, which could make the state a destination for the procedure. States with stronger protections for abortion will attract even more patients, said Brandon Richards, with Planned Parenthood affiliates of California.

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Richards says there could be up to a 3,000% increase in people who may come here for abortion care each year if Roe is overturned — most of them from Arizona. Planned Parenthood clinics in California already serve about 7,000 out-of-state patients a year.

Richards cited 2017 data from the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion and reproductive health rights, which found that “1.3 million Arizonans would find their nearest health center within California.”

CA ABORTIONS
An anti-abortion demonstrator hurls insults at pro-choice activists in front of the U.S. Supreme Court as the justices hear arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, a case about a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks, on December 1, 2021.
(Chip Somodevilla
/
Getty Images)

Who Will Pay

California organizations that help people afford abortions are also preparing for an influx of patients.

Private insurance doesn’t generally cover out-of-state abortions, so most women have to pay the full cost. People enrolled in other states’ Medicaid programs must pay out-of-pocket, too, says Jessica Pinckney, executive director of ACCESS Reproductive Justice, a fund that helps people pay for abortions.

“Many of the calls that we receive are because of incredibly high copays or deductibles, Pinckney says. “It’s often cheaper for people to pay out of pocket for their abortion than to use their private insurance plan.”

She’d like to see legislation move forward in Sacramento that would eliminate cost-sharing for Californians seeking abortions.

“If cost-sharing is eliminated for folks who have California private insurance plans, that frees up funds for organizations like ours to be able to dedicate to out-of-state callers who may have to come into the state,” she says.

CA ABORTIONS abortion pills in bag
Protesters, demonstrators and activists gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court as the justices hear arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, a case about a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks, on December 1, 2021.
(Chip Somodevilla
/
Getty Images)

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Next Steps

In September, Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic legislative leaders asked ACCESS Reproductive Justice, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, NARAL-Pro Choice CA, Black Women for Wellness and the National Health Law Program to form the California Future of Abortion Council.

The group is expected to this month propose policies to legislators to bolster California’s abortion infrastructure. State lawmakers plan to begin debating the ideas when they reconvene in January.

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