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Abortion rights advocates call for California to become a true ‘Reproductive Freedom State’ if Roe v. Wade is overturned


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By Steve Almasy, CNN

A coalition of more than 40 organizations, including abortion rights advocacy groups, issued a report on Wednesday with 45 recommendations to “protect, strengthen and expand abortion services” in California.

The report comes as the US Supreme Court weighs new laws in Texas and Mississippi that are much more restrictive than 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide and says states can’t ban abortion unless a fetus is viable or can survive outside the womb.

“It is imperative that California policymakers begin acting upon these policy recommendations and preparing the state to serve potentially millions more people seeking abortion care as other states adopt extreme bans on an essential health service,” the report from the California Future of Abortion Council says. “California must build upon its existing protections, innovate, and implement bold programs and policies to truly be a Reproductive Freedom State.”

On December 1, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case over a restrictive abortion law in Mississippi enacted in 2018. After the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, Mississippi raised the stakes and argued that the justices should not only uphold the law but also invalidate Roe v. Wade.

At the hearing, the Supreme Court signaled it was likely to uphold the state’s law, which bans nearly all abortion 15 weeks into a pregnancy, long before viability which is now considered to be about 23 weeks.

Chief Justice John Roberts floated a middle position that would uphold the Mississippi law and move up the viability line but stop short of ending abortion rights nationwide entirely. It was unclear if his idea would sway other justices.

If the court does overturn Roe, people in large swaths of the South and the Midwest would be left without access to abortion. The impact would be felt most by poor women, who may be unable to travel or to get the necessary time off work. A ruling may not come until early next summer.

It’s possible the court will issue an opinion sooner in the Texas case. The justices were reviewing the procedural mechanism the state is using to implement its prohibition on abortion once fetal cardiac activity has been detected — which can be as soon as six weeks into pregnancy — so the dispute doesn’t require them to address Roe head-on.

The California report says more than two dozen states are “certain or likely” to ban abortion if the Supreme Court’s decision weakens or overturns Roe.

The report cites the Guttmacher Institute, which describes itself as a “research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) worldwide.”

Guttmacher says that if the Supreme Court decisions allow states to totally ban abortion, the number of out-of-state people finding their nearest abortion clinic is in California would rise from 46,000 people to 1.4 million.

One of the council’s proposals would give funds to advocacy groups, providers and other organizations to provide patients money for costs such as gas, lodging, transportation, child care, food, lost wages, and other related expenses.

The coalition includes several Planned Parenthood affiliates in California and NARAL Pro-Choice California, a grassroots abortion rights organization.

It also includes participation from the office of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has applauded the new council.

“California has been a leader in protecting access to sexual and reproductive rights, but as we’ve seen recently with unprecedented attacks on these rights, we can and must do more,” Newsom said in September.

The California Future of Abortion Council said its recommendations fall under seven headings. It says the state must:

  • Increase investments in abortion funding, support and infrastructure.
  • Ensure cost is not a barrier to care.
  • Invest in a diverse California abortion provider workforce.
  • Reduce administrative and institutional barriers to care.
  • Strengthen legal protections for patients, providers and others.
  • Make sure patients have access to accurate education and not misinformation or disinformation.
  • Support the collection of data and research that will help assess and inform abortion care and education.

The report has the support of Democratic state Sen. Toni Atkins, who wrote a letter that’s attached to the report. She said she and her colleagues were grateful to the council.

“Together we can shape public policy so that California can keep forging ahead along the path of progress and understanding, and continue to serve as a beacon of hope for the rest of our nation,” she wrote.

On Twitter, she added that state legislators will work with the council to make sure people in California have access to reproductive health services.

“This is crunch time, but we will not be dragged into the past,” she tweeted.

Two anti-abortion groups said they were appalled by the recommendations.

Lila Rose, president of Live Action, an anti-abortion group she founded in 2003, said the proposals are “pure evil.”

“California politicians have unveiled their plan to make the state America’s baby slaughter house, ” she tweeted.

The group Pro-Life San Francisco, which calls itself “a multi-partisan, nonsectarian group of pro-life activists,” wrote on Twitter: “Tell your state senator & assembly member to oppose the grotesque aims of this Council NOW!”

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CNN’s Ariane de Vogue contributed to this report.

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