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California Could Become An ‘Abortion Sanctuary’ If Roe Overturned

The Supreme Court on a sunny day. The buildings pillars are at the center of the image.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Sept. 28, 2020 in Washington, DC.
(Al Drago
/
Getty Images North America)
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An estimated 26 states are poised to ban abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, and California clinics and legislative allies are preparing for a potential influx of patients.

On Monday, Politico published a leaked draft of a purported majority opinion by Justice Samuel Alito gutting Roe. In a statement, Chief Justice John Roberts said the draft was authentic.

In the aftermath of the leak, Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic legislative leaders pledged to continue efforts to establish California as as a safe haven for abortion access.

In September, Newsom and the 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.

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The group released 45 recommendations in December that would make the Golden State a “sanctuary” for the procedure if the 1973 decision that legalized abortion in the United States is overturned. Those recommendations came shortly after the Supreme Court heard arguments concerning Mississippi’s abortion law, and the questions and comments by several justices led observers at the time to conclude that the court’s likely decision will at least weaken Roe v. Wade — if not outright overturn the law.

The proposals from the advisory council range from hiring more diverse health professionals to funding travel, including lodging and childcare for people seeking abortions.

Jessica Pinckney is executive director of Access Reproductive Justice, a fund that helps people pay for abortions. She contributed to the report and hopes legislators will provide funding for what is called the “patient navigation workforce.”

She described the workforce as “those who help patients figure out which clinic they can go to, which provider they can see, how they are going to and from their appointment."

States with stronger protections for abortion such as California will attract more patients if Roe is overturned, said Brandon Richards, communications director with Planned Parenthood affiliates of California.

Richards said there could be up to a 3,000% increase in people coming 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.”

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Updated May 4, 2022 at 10:30 AM PDT
This story was originally published on Dec. 8, 2021. It was updated to include news of the leak of the draft opinion first published by Politico.