Sacramento, Calif. , California is preparing to spend up to $20 million to bring women from other states to its abortion clinics, a policy aimed at increasing access to a procedure that has been banned or banned in several states since the U.S. Supreme Court. has reversed Roe vs. Wade.
Gavin Newsom previously restricted money in the state’s “Abortion Practical Support Fund” to travel only in the state, saying “we have to be realistic about what we can absorb.” That decision surprised abortion advocates, notably Newsom, a Democrat, who vowed to make California a sanctuary for women in other states seeking abortions.
Abortion advocates spent weeks lobbying the governor’s office on the issue. On Friday, days before the end of the legislative session, Newsom and legislative leaders unveiled an amendment to the budget that would allow the state to spend public money on out-of-state travel for abortions. Legislators are due to vote on it next week.
While the fund will receive public funding, it also accepts private donations – something the Newsom administration has said will be important to cover costs.
“As the governor has said, California is doing its job, but we can’t do it all – private donations and philanthropy will be key to these efforts,” Newsom spokesman Alex Stack said. “We all need to take steps to support women who are being denied reproductive freedom by their state governments and forced to come to California for abortion care.”
Jodi Hicks, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood Associates of California, said the change is significant because state officials have been working for months to increase the state’s capacity to provide abortions following the US Supreme Court ruling.
“None of it matters if we’re not even making sure patients can get where they need to go,” she said. “Everyone is entitled to access to health care, including abortion, and unfortunately half the country requires them to travel outside the state in which they live.”
As some states move to restrict or restrict access to abortion, some state and local governments have worked to use public funds to help women travel in those states to obtain the procedure. In Republican-led states, city leaders in St. Louis, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, have pledged to use public money to help women get abortions.
State lawmakers in Oregon — anticipating an abortion ban in neighboring Idaho — agreed to spend $15 million to help women get abortions. So far, $1 million has gone to the Northwest Abortion Access Fund, a nonprofit that helps patients pay for travel and procedures. The fund exhausted its planned operating budget this year and had to approve additional emergency funds amid growing demand for travel aid, according to Riley Keane, practical support lead for the group.
In California, some of the money can go to Access Reproductive Justice, the state’s only statewide abortion aid fund. The group typically helps about 500 people get abortions per year, but director Jessica Pinckney said they’ve seen an increase since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Recently, for the first time ever, Pinckney said the group helped more women living in other states than California in one week.
“We’re definitely seeing an increase of Texans and Arizonans. We’re also starting to see people coming in from Louisiana, Alabama — more than we might have anticipated,” Pinckney said. “I still don’t necessarily think we have the full story of what this post-row era is going to look like now.”
The California Family Council, a nonprofit that opposes abortion rights, has been lobbying against the spending this year, but without much success. Group president Jonathan Keller said the state should spend tax dollars on more pressing issues such as homelessness and housing.
“The idea that the most use of state funds would be to pay for an abortion on a California taxpayer flying here for people from red states is really just a travesty,” he said.
According to the Office of the Nonpartisan Legislative Analyst, the state budget this year authorizes $4.8 billion to be spent over three years on an array of housing and homelessness programs, in addition to the $9 billion lawmakers approved last year.
Associated Press reporter Claire Rush contributed from Portland, Oregon.