United States Supreme Court Ruling Overturning Roe V. Wade Won’t Affect Abortion Access In California
The United States Supreme Court has overturned federal abortion protections that were established under Roe v. Wade. That's the 1973 ruling that declared that a pregnant person has a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy in the first six months of her pregnancy, when the fetus is incapable of surviving outside the womb.
You might notice that this story uses specific phrasing for reproductive care. One example is in our use of "health care providers who perform abortions" or "clinics." That’s intentional because this area of public health is fraught.
The court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization —released Friday morning — ends the federal constitutional right to an abortion.
Instead, abortion is now a state-by-state issue, with some protecting access and others implementing “trigger laws” that ban the procedure the moment Roe was struck down.
California law is clear — abortion remains legal.
“The California state Constitution protects the right to privacy. For decades, the state Supreme Court has interpreted the word ‘privacy’ to cover abortion,” said UCLA law professor Cary Franklin. “So yes, there is California constitutional protection for abortion through the privacy clause.”
In a statement, Jodi Hicks, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, pledged to support people in states where abortion will be restricted or eliminated.
“To people across the country living in a state hostile to abortion: California is here for you," she said. "We will not turn people away, and we will find a way to support you so that you can get the care you need.”
“For the first time in my lifetime, the next generation will grow up with fewer rights than their parents had,” she added. “We will not go quietly. We will fight this. Abortion is and will continue to a part of our nation’s history. Everyone deserves the ability to control their own bodies and their own futures.”
Blue states are racing to enact laws to further codify abortion rights. In California, Democratic state lawmakers have introduced legislation to explicitly protect the right to an abortion, as well as access to contraceptives, in the state Constitution. If the proposal passes, the decision to add it as a constitutional amendment will come before California voters as soon as November.
“If anything, the right to abortion will become more firmly entrenched and protected after Dobbs in California,” Franklin said. He noted the case has spurred state legislators to introduce a slate of other bills aimed at quickly increasing protections as a result of the threat posed by the diminishment of federal rights.
Some of the bills seek to protect health care providers who perform abortions that are legal in California from having their licenses suspended. Another bill similar to a law recently passed in Connecticut includes protection from cross-state civil penalties. The legislation is aimed at laws like the one passed in Texas allowing the state’s private citizens to sue those believed to be violating its abortion restrictions.
“The fear is that just any person in Texas can say, ‘my niece traveled to California and got an abortion. Now she's back home, and I'm going to sue a California doctor for aiding and abetting,’” Franklin said. “I really think we're just going to have this kind of clash, where you have some blue states in various ways balking at or even refusing to extradite, and then my guess is it'll make its way to the [U.S.] Supreme Court.”
Residents in nearby states facing tough abortion restrictions may come to California for care. Twenty-six states, including neighboring Arizona, are expected to quickly restrict or ban abortions.
A study from the pro-abortion rights Guttmacher Institute estimates there are currently about 46,000 out-of-state residents whose nearest abortion provider is in California. It predicts that number will rise to some 1.4 million, a nearly 3,000% increase. In 2017 there were 419 facilities providing abortion services in California and 161 of those were clinics, according to a Guttmacher report.
“In a way, the divide between the states is going to get even bigger, because Californians will have even more protections and Alabamans will lose all protections,” Franklin said.