Crime & Justice

California moving toward becoming abortion sanctuary

By Guillermo Azabal

Los Angeles, Jun 26 (EFE).- Up to 36 million women of childbearing age are looking over the US map with unease, trying to figure out where the guaranteed right to abortion remains in effect after last week’s Supreme Court ruling revoking the right that has been constitutionally protected since 1973.

In the US, 16 states and the District of Columbia had previously established their own legislative frameworks for safeguarding the right to abortion without federal interference.

Those states are “sanctuary” states and include Vermont and Massachusetts, where – even though they have Republican governors – are protecting the right to abortion, and Michigan, which already announced that it would challenge in court a 1931 law (which was passed before the Roe v. Wade precedent-setting legislation) to prevent prohibition of interruptions of pregnancy.

Although it is not anticipated that the right to abortion will be rescinded in these states, despite the unprecedented Supreme Court ruling, the facilities for getting to abortion clinics and paying for the expenses associated with obtaining an abortion are not always as accessible as in California, for instance, which sets the standard in the reproductive area.

In the most populous US state, with almost 40 million residents, in 2020 more than 154,000 legal abortions were performed and nationwide the total was 930,600, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which does research on reproductive matters in the US.

People in California believe that they must be guaranteed the right to abortion as part of the healthcare system, Elizabeth Nash, an analyst of state policies at the Guttmacher Institute, told EFE.

In California, it is legal to have an abortion on doctors’ advice following “good faith medical judgment,” and although no precise period during which abortions may be performed is specified, generally abortion is only prohibited after the 23rd week of pregnancy or if the fetus weighs more approximately 500 grams (1.1 pounds), since at that point it is considered able to survive on its own outside the womb.

Coverage for abortions is included in many health insurance plans, and the procedure can cost between $1,000 and $1,500, although low income women can often get them free of charge.

In that regard, experts predict that the number of women traveling to states allowing abortions will rise exponentially after the high court’s ruling.

On Friday, California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, signed a bill to immediately protect abortion providers in California from civil liability based on claims made in anti-abortion states while providing care for patients traveling from areas where the procedure is now banned or access has been restricted.

Newsom said that the law will resist the moves by GOP states to allow private lawsuits to be filed against abortion providers and patients. Last year, for instance, Texas passed a law that allows private citizens to sue anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy, which is long before many women even know they are pregnant.

“We will in no way shape or form, support, enable, investigate, resource, any of those activities or energies,” Newsom declared, going on to say that the new law is part of a larger package of more than a dozen bills designed to offer “true sanctuary” to those seeking or providing abortions in California.

The UCLA School of Law’s Center on Reproductive Health, Law and Policy estimates that, starting now, between 8,000 and 16,000 women will travel to California each year to be able to terminate their pregnancies.

A legal historian at UCLA, Mary Ziegler, told EFE in an interview that in recent years California has had a budget surplus that enables it to be able to pay for these anticipated new abortions.

Planned Parenthood, the organization with the most reproductive health clinics in the US, remains in the forefront of the effort to provide abortions for those women wanting to terminate a pregnancy.

The organization’s community affairs manager, Claudia Powell, told EFE that Planned Parenthood already has restructured almost all of its 100 centers in the state to handle the increased load.

California is one of the states where the protection of abortion as a legitimate healthcare option has the most guarantees, but in this “beacon of hope” for reproductive rights the effort to expand healthcare coverage to all Latino women and undocumented migrants still has not yet been approved.

The Democratic Party has proposed an amendment to the state constitution so that under no circumstances may the state ban abortion or deny prescribing contraceptives to any woman in California.

Those Latinas and undocumented migrants, lacking health insurance and often with difficulties communicating in English, must work their way through assorted obstacles to access reproductive health services, Laura Jimenez, the executive director of California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, told EFE.

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