Millions of Americans awoke Friday to their once-constitutional right to abortion revoked with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. But even states like California, where abortion remains protected, aren’t spared from the consequences.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, California can expect anywhere between 46,000 and 1.4 million additional out-of-state visitors in seek of abortion services.
“We can therefore reasonably anticipate that we will see increased demand for these services [abortion] in other states [with protections], including California,” Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian said in a statement. “When the time comes, we will be ready here in Santa Clara County to address that need.”
Out-of-state patients typically go to health centers near transportation hubs — like Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco — according to Andrew Adams, head of strategic communications at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, which operates in “mid-California” and northern Nevada.
“We’ve ensured that we’re as prepared for this moment as we can be,” Adams said. “We’ve contracted additional abortion providers, we’ve trained and developed eight more clinicians to provide integrated aspiration abortion health centers, we’ve ensured that all of our abortion providers are able to provide abortion up to their licensed limit. … We’ve also optimized training partnerships with medical schools and residency and fellowships to really secure the future workforce and then we have five building projects underway in our affiliate territory.”
Adams said these steps combined will allow Planned Parenthood Mar Monte to absorb an additional 250 to 500 patients a week if necessary.
Increases in the number of out-of-state patients aren’t new either; California already experienced them after SB-8, the law that bans abortion after six weeks in Texas, went into effect last September.
Planned Parenthood Mar Monte saw a double in its number of patients between July 2021 and April 15 compared to the same time period in the previous year, according to Adams.
California’s state constitution protects abortion under the right to privacy, but according to Adams, the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling could have potential consequences beyond Roe v. Wade in California.
“Roe [v. Wade] and [Planned Parenthood v.] Casey both protected abortion and the right to privacy,” Adams said. “So, there could be an argument made that because the Supreme Court has removed that constitutional protection, that [those are] not as protected as it used to be.”
Adams said that’s why Gov. Gavin Newsom, Planned Parenthood and others are pushing for a constitutional amendment that would explicitly embed abortion rights.
“Embedding abortion rights in the California constitution makes sense, and it is my hope and expectation that we will see efforts to do just that,” Simitian said in a statement. “I think we can also expect other legislative measures reaffirming California’s position as a pro-choice state in the very near future. I support such efforts, and expect our board will too in the days ahead.”
The state legislature voted to put the measure on the ballot Tuesday; residents will vote on the measure to embed abortion rights in November and if passed, only a nationwide ban could challenge abortion rights in California.
“California has long defended a woman’s fundamental right to choose whether to bear a child or obtain an abortion, and has strongly supported the institutions that provide safe abortions for women,” said Assemblymember Marc Berman, who represents District 24. “I was proud to vote to put SCA 10 on the ballot, and encourage all Californians to support it.”
Neighboring states like Nevada and Oregon protect abortion under the law, which is easier to change than a state constitution. Abortion protections apply to all in California regardless of whether an individual is a California citizen.
Some states, like Missouri, have looked into passing laws that would allow the state government to go after citizens who travel to other states to receive abortions. These laws are currently unconstitutional, though, as the Supreme Court kept the right to travel open to seek an abortion.
“That really puts a chill on the ability of limiting others who need access to abortion in other states from even traveling to get it,” Adams said. “To be clear, those laws have not gone into effect yet but these states are threatening it or looking into it and it’s very scary.”
Planned Parenthood Mar Monte has six locations in Santa Clara County: Gilroy, Mountain View and four San Jose locations. The county allocated $3 million to a San Jose Planned Parenthood office in May, in anticipation of the Dobbs decision; Adams said Planned Parenthood Mar Monte has also been renovating centers.
According to Adams, all of Planned Parenthood’s services — including abortion — operate on a “sliding fee scale.”
“If you don’t have insurance, based on your income, we’ll adjust the cost to pay,” Adams said. “And then for patients who have insurance, insurance almost always covers the entire cost. So it really does depend on circumstances, but we never turn anyone away based on their ability to pay or not.”
Patients can book appointments online or over the phone. Health centers offer language interpretation services in Spanish, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Hmong and Punjabi, Adams said. But while many out-of-state individuals will come to California for abortions and take advantage of these resources, Adams said for many, that isn’t an option.
“One of our biggest concerns is about those people in those states who can’t afford a plane ticket or the hotel room or the childcare or can’t afford to take time off work and they can’t drive to a neighboring state,” Adams said. “Because almost all of these states, their neighboring states no longer will protect or provide access to abortion. So what are those people going to do? That’s a situation where really, they’re forced to give birth in the United States in the year 2022.”
What you can do
There are generally “three big buckets” of things that people can do for the cause: vote, donate — to abortion funds or Planned Parenthood Mar Monte — and disrupt, according to Adams.
“If we’ve learned anything, every election matters,” former Mountain View Mayor and current councilmember Ellen Kamei said. “People need to educate themselves down the ballot. We can’t take it [the right to an abortion] for granted anymore.”
Voting for candidates that “explicitly support the right to abortion” both at the national level — like in the midterm election in November — and local level is important, Adams said. Kamei and Angelica Ramos-Allen, president of the Silicon Valley chapter of the National Women’s Caucus, also stressed getting involved in local elections by volunteering, phone banking and canvassing for candidates in support of the right to abortion.
“This doesn’t happen overnight,” Ramos-Allen said. “Local elections matter because those are pipelines for bigger races. Get involved at the local level. Those same local officials go to the state legislature, where we now have an opportunity to enshrine the right to an abortion in California’s constitution.”
Gil Rubinstein contributed to the reporting in this article.