SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — To accommodate a presumed stream of people entering California to access abortion services in the coming years, a council backed by Governor Gavin Newsom and other elected officials wants taxpayers to pay for patients’ travel to and stay in the Golden State.
As the nation waits to see whether the U.S. Supreme Court decides to gut abortion rights and allow states to enact wholesale bans, the newly convened California Future of Abortion Council is pushing lawmakers to make California the nation’s abortion hub.
In a report issued Wednesday, the council recommends the state boost funding for abortion services to include reimbursing people from out of state for money spent on gas, lodging, child care, doula services and even lost wages.
This month during oral arguments, the Supreme Court's conservative majority seemed poised to uphold a 15-week ban on abortions in Mississippi. Abortion rights groups have warned the high court’s pending decision could set off similar bans in other states and send a flood of people to states that allow the procedure, namely California.
“As a majority of Supreme Court Justices appear ready to undermine the bodily autonomy of millions and allow extreme abortion restrictions to stand, California can and must go further and do more to ensure that anyone seeking abortion services within our borders can get the care they want, when and where they need it,” said Amy Moy, Essential Health Access chief external affairs officer in a statement.
Newsom has labeled California a “reproductive freedom state” and it already has some of the strongest laws on protecting abortion access and patient privacy, but a push is underway to do more.
Citing the need to protect access to sexual and reproductive rights in light of “unprecedented attacks” in state like Texas and Mississippi, Newsom inked a pair of abortion rights bills earlier this year. The Democratic governor also helped launch the council, whose members include Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
“It is of outsized importance that California asserts itself as the opposite of these states, states like Texas,” Newsom said during the September signing ceremony.
Months later, the council’s first report includes a total of 45 recommendations it wants the Legislature to consider when it reconvenes in January.
The 14-page report calls on the state to not only fund services for out-of-state patients but reduce costs and streamline Medi-Cal reimbursements, create a state-run website for people seeking abortions in California, new employee training programs and increased legal protections for patients. It also recommends the state make information about abortion services more readily available to immigrants, the LGBTQ community, the state’s massive homeless population and foster youth.
“It is imperative that California policymakers begin acting upon these recommendations and preparing the state to serve potentially millions more people seeking abortion care as other states prepare extreme bans to an essential health service,” the report concludes.
Wednesday's report predictably roiled an assortment of anti-abortion groups across the Golden State.
Jonathan Keller, CEO of the California Family Council, said he wasn't surprised by the report's proposals and that they signaled a new low for Newsom, who is up for reelection next year. He said the governor and other state Democrats should be focused on reducing homelessness or preventing wildfires instead of enacting abortion-rights laws.
"It really shows Newsom's misplaced priorities," Keller said. I guess what he thinks is his biggest ticket to reelection is to pay for the abortions of out-of-state patients."
Napa-based Life Legal Defense Foundation cast the report as "extremist" while the California Right to Life Education fund said it "nakedly prioritizes abortion over carrying a child to term."
The wide array of recommendations could be enacted through new legislation or the next state budget, which figures to be stocked with opportunity as analysts predict California will have a mammoth surplus. Along with Newsom, the council has another prominent ally in state Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, increasing the likelihood that some of the proposals will become reality in 2022.
Atkins, who opened the report with a support letter, not only plays a key role in crafting the state budget but also guides the legislative agenda in the state Capitol.
“California is in a unique position — while our reproductive freedoms and ability to make choices about our own bodies are constitutionally protected, the same does not hold true in other areas of the country,” wrote Atkins, D-San Diego. “We can’t afford to let extremists turn back the clock on our rights.”
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