State’s abortion rights ‘will not be defeated’

LOS ANGELES — With the strikedown of the nation’s federally protected abortion rights appearing to be imminent, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday, May 4, pledged that a state constitutional amendment enshrining reproductive rights is in the works, while echoing fear that with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, other rights gleaned from the U.S. Constitution may be at stake.

“It’s a hell of a moment to live in… . We will not be defeated,” a clearly indignant Newsom said, speaking at Planned Parenthood Los Angeles Headquarters in Los Angeles. “We will stand tall. We still stand firm, and we will affirm the constitutionally protected right of women and girls and their reproductive rights and freedoms in California.”

That affirmation, he added, will translate into a proposed state constitutional right to abortion. Proposed amendments may be placed on the ballot by either a two-thirds vote in the California state Legislature or signatures equal to 8% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.

But Newsom also touted the work the state’s government has done to lay the groundwork for a state that will likely become a “safe haven” for women state across the country, where abortion would be restricted.

Asked for a response, the Republican National Committee referred to a statement Tuesday by RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, who said, “Democrats are showing once again how extreme they really are on abortion, pushing taxpayer-funded, on demand and unlimited abortion up until the moment of birth and after. Their position on abortion is radical, cruel and anti-science. The far left wants unelected judges to impose a radical, one-size-fits-all abortion policy, leaving Americans without a voice. The Republican Party will always stand for the sanctity of life, speak up for the unborn, and protect vulnerable mothers.”

Under the draft opinion — reported this week by Politico — that the U.S. Supreme Court is considering, the nearly 50-year-old landmark federal protection established by the court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, and then affirmed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992 will likely be struck down. Instead, the new court and its conservative majority argue that no such right exists in the federal Constitution and hence it is a matter for the states to decide.

The draft opinion in Dobbs v. Mississippi Department of Health, is only a draft. There could be revisions. But it’s ramifications have shaken the foundations of a nation where long-sight fundamental rights to marriage, to birth control, and to abortion, underpinned by a fundamental right to privacy, were long thought to be settled. Undo those, Newsom said, and you jeopardize many rights thought settled.

“I find it the height of perversity and absurdity, that these folks lay claim to freedom, but perhaps more insidiously suggest that they are pro life, when every single one of these folks that are out there, trumpeting and championing this decision have constitutionally opposed prenatal care support, consistently oppose child care, consistently oppose paid family leave… consistently oppose all things that  actually strengthen the family … .”

In 2017, 89% of U.S. counties had no abortion clinics, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which researches such data in an effort to advocate for abortion rights.

Estimates suggest about 38% of reproductive-age women lived in counties with a lack of services and would have to travel elsewhere to obtain an abortion.

One-third of those who had abortions in 2014 had to travel more than 25 miles one way to reach a facility.

In 2017, according to Guttmacher, 40% of California counties had no clinics that provided abortions and 3% of California women lived in those counties.

The backdrop on Wednesday morning was Planned Parenthood L.A., where Sue Dunlap, president and chief executive for Planned Parenthood’s Los Angeles-area chapter, said Wednesday.

“We anticipate substantially more people coming to California and to Los Angeles,” said Dunlap, adding that Planned Parenthood L.A. has been working with legislative leaders and hospitals to “do all that we can to anticipate this moment. To have an infrastructure in place.”

But Dunlap said the organization’s L.A. doors would stay open, pledging that when an official Court decision does come, the organization would expend all resources to meet the demand.

“This is unprecedented. What we do know is that our doors wills stay open and we will do our damnedest to take care of every women who turns to Planned Parenthood and all the other healthcare providers across the state and will lift up the values of liberty and freedom, knowing that we will not be defeated in this moment or in the long term.”

Tuesday’s news set off shockwaves on both ends of the political spectrum.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed Tuesday that the draft document is authentic, but he stressed that the ruling is still in draft form and could change dramatically, noting that a decision is not final until it is finalized and published.

Roberts also ordered an investigation into the leak of the document.

The draft ruling has set off waves of protest by pro-choice activists and elected officials nationwide, all decrying what they call an attempt to strip away women’s rights that have been repeatedly upheld for nearly half a century.

Republican lawmakers have largely focused their response to the draft ruling not on its actual substance, but on the fact it was leaked.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Temecula, declared that he “will always stand for life and defend the unborn.”

“But no matter one’s personal views on this issue, we are all Americans, and we all share an equal stake in the integrity of the Supreme Court,” Issa said. “It holds a sacred trust that is bound up in our nation’s highest ideals. After (Monday’s) media leak of a draft opinion, however, that confidence is deeply shaken.”

The furor enduring into Wednesday, a day after L.A. County-area governmental agencies doubled down on “safe haven” protections in light of the news of an imminent end to the rule of law of Roe v. Wade.

L.A. County leaders on Tuesday endorsed a proposed pilot project that would make the county a safe haven for women who seek abortions and related health care needs.

The all-woman board unanimously backed the project and will have its legislative advocates in Sacramento push for a state bill that would create a program through which Los Angeles County could provide abortion services to women regardless of residency.

Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez’s office cited a study that said California is likely to experience a 3,000% increase — from 46,000 to 1.4 million — in women of reproductive age whose closest abortion provider is in California.

The item had, coincidentally, been on the board’s Tuesday agenda ahead of Politico reporting Monday night that the Supreme Court had voted to overturn Roe. That report seemingly confirmed what legal experts had long suspected — that the Supreme Court, with six Republican-appointed justices, was set dismantle the federal abortion protections Roe provided and place access to that health care procedure within the legislative purview of individual states.

Twenty-four states, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, are poised to ban abortion if the court strikes Roe down.

The Board of Supervisors, however, is not the only local agency working to prepare for California to become a safe haven.

Long Beach has been has been working since early February to identify extra funding for reproductive health care access — including potentially launching a local full-spectrum health care pilot plan should state funding be available, according to a Tuesday press release from the city’s health department.

The city is also developing plans to enhance medical training, expand the health care workforce and create a uniform health care referral system to help reduce barriers to care.

The health department is also partnering with local community organizations, including Planned Parenthood, to understand existing services in the city and how they can be expanded, the release said.

Martinez introduced a motion aimed at preparing the city for the possible influx of people from other states seeking abortions in California.

“A woman’s right to an abortion is crucial to our fight for equality in America,” Martinez said. “We cannot ask women to risk their lives by revoking their right to a safe medical procedure.”

The motion, if it passes, would direct the chief legislative analyst to coordinate the city’s response with the Los Angeles County departments of Health Services and Public Health.

The chief legislative analyst would identify how the city could respond to a possible increase in demand for abortions in Los Angeles.

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