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California, the abortion sanctuary state

Episode Summary

California leaders have expected for months that the U.S. Supreme Court would strike down Roe vs. Wade. Now that it has happened, what's next?

Episode Notes

More than 20 states have already worked to ban or severely limit abortion in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe vs. Wade. But in California, access to abortion will continue to be protected. In fact, the state’s Democratic leaders want to expand the right to abortion — for those who live here, and even for those who don’t.

Today, how and why California is setting itself up as a “beacon of hope” for people who want an abortion.

Read the full transcript here. 

Host: Gustavo Arellano

Guests: L.A. Times California government reporter Melody Gutierrez

More reading:

What happens in California with Roe vs. Wade now dead?

Newsom signs bill protecting California abortion providers from civil liability

In an America divided by abortion, guns and COVID, California and Newsom seize the moment

Episode Transcription

Ambi: Don’t go back. We won't go back. 

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Gustavo: on Friday, the Supreme court struck down Roe versus Wade.

AP: The Supreme court's move to overturn Roe V. Wade is laying bear a deep national divide over abortion.

Nancy Pelosi: It's a slap in the face to women

Kevin McCarthy: Americans celebrate this historic victory.

Joe Biden: This is not over.

Gustavo: more than 20 states. Immediately work to ban or severely limit abortion

AP: abortions performed in Oklahoma or solicited in. Are illegal,

Gustavo: but in California, access to abortion will continue to be protected.

Ambi: We cannot, and in California we will not stand by.

Gustavo: In fact, the state's democratic leaders want to expand the right to abortion for those who live here. And even for those who don't,

First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom: we will continue to lead with those values by abortion access and serving as a Haven for anyone in this country needing an abortion

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Gustavo: I'm Gustavo Arellano. You're listening to the times daily news from the LA times. It's Monday, June 27th, 2022. 

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Today how California has spent the last few months preparing for a future without Roe versus Wade.

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My LA times colleague Melody Gutierrez covers California state, government, and politics. And she's tracked how the state, legislature and governor Gavin youSo have set up California as a quote, beacon of hope for those who seek abortions. Melody. Welcome to the times.

Melody: Thank you for having me.

Gustavo: You're based in Sacramento. How did state lawmakers react after hearing about the Supreme court's ruling on Roe versus Wade?

Melody: There were a lot of reactions. .

First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom: As a mother and first partner of California, 


I am outraged.

Melody: There were tears in emotional conversations during some of these press conferences that were held. So it was, uh, a lot of reaction from a lot of the democratic members of the legislature, as well as kind of group press conferences with advocacy groups like planned parenthood,

Parenthood Affiliates of California President/CEO Jodi Hicks: both by design and by circum. California is the leader right now. We've been leading since we put out a blueprint that other states are following will continue to lead. We have that responsibility and we have that honor.

Melody: So there was a momentous amount of reaction during that first day. But I have to say that this is something that they were planning for, that they've had legislation in place for. And. Despite knowing that it was likely going to happen. I think that there was still a lot of shock in Sacramento.


Gustavo: They made it pretty clear that the Supreme court ruling doesn't change people's rights to abortion in California. But what are those rights? Exactly?

Melody: Right. California's law is cemented in two different ways. It's protected under the California constitution, but it's held under privacy and Liberty. And so it's not explicit in the California constitution that Abortion is a right. It's the interpretation of privacy and Liberty that makes it cemented in Californians for their right to have an abortion. What California lawmakers want to do now is actually have an explicit. Constitutional amendment come before voters that says abortion and contraceptives are your right in the state of California.

Gustavo: And in those rights already in the constitution, was there anything about like the viability of the fetus, the way it was in Roe versus Wade like a test?

Melody: Yes. So California constitution allows anybody of reproductive age to get an abortion and that abortion limit in California is set at viability. There's no explicit. Number attached to that to the weeks it's up to a doctor to determine what viability means. And that typically is about 24 weeks. Most women seek abortions early in their pregnancy. About 93% of procedures in 2019 were before 13 weeks. It's very rare, less than 1% will seek an abortion after 21 weeks. And that does come with a little bit of a caveat because after 21 weeks could be for a medical reason for having the abortion. And so there are some caveats there with the later abortions and why those were sought in the first place.

Gustavo: you mentioned that at that press conference in Sacramento, that even though there was a lot of emotion, People were ready. The people have been anticipating the end of Roe versus Wade for a while. And in California, a lot of the lawmakers they've been pushing for a bunch of proposals or they already had proposals. And one of the big ones has involved making abortions affordable for Californians as much as possible.

Melody: Absolutely. So there was a, a report that came out last year by the future of abortion council. And that's a group that. Created by governor Newsome and legislative leaders to look at this issue. And this was long before the proposed decision was leaked earlier this year. And the whole reason that California was looking at this issue is that there was a belief that just by the Supreme court taking the case, that there was cause for concern. And so those lawmakers came together along with the, uh, future of abortion council. And there are now more than 12 bills in the California legislature looking at a wide variety of issues from liability for the providers here in the state to an abortion fund to help women. Who need help with gas or our hotels, or any kind of travel expenses to either come to the state or travel within the state to receive an abortion. And the state budget that's currently being decided by the legislature and the governor is also including quite a bit of money, millions of dollars for different areas in which they believe abortion needs to be, uh, strengthened or abortion care needs to be enhanced by creating more providers in the.

Gustavo: What about like medical or people who don’t have insurance. Did the state do anything about that?

Melody: The Medical actually in California already covers abortion for Californians. There was a law signed earlier this year by governor Newsom. That also requires that insurers pay not just for the cost of abortion, which is required in the state. They are now going to be required to cover the copays and other cost sharing involved with an abortion, which could be hundreds of dollars for people who are seeking that care.

Gustavo: What was interesting to me is like, California's doing all of this, but other states were doing the opposite and restricting or banning abortion altogether. And now in the, you know, with Roe versus Wade being overturned, governor Newsome, it seems like he's really stepped up his campaign to make abortion something that's easily accessible in California. So how's he trying to position, uh, California with this.

Melody: governor Newsome is saying that he wants California to be a sanctuary. For abortion care and really for free abortion care. n California. Governor Newsome is also partnering with, uh, governors of Washington and Oregon in order to create sort of this Western offense where they are proposing different ways to solidify their ability to provide abortions to residents of other states.

Gustavo: How many people does the states or the states. Expecting to come to California to seek abortions.

Melody: There's many different estimates here. But the one that I looked at was from UCLA that was saying up to 16,000 more people will travel to California for an abortion every year. And that includes up to 9,000 more than 9,000 people going to LA county alone. That's a, a lot of people coming into California where abortion providers are already short staffed. You have people in rural areas of this state that can't get an abortion within a timeframe that they are seeking and have to already travel quite a distance. And so the amount of stress that that influx is gonna create in California will be interesting to watch and also something that is causing concern for lawmakers and newsom.

Gustavo: Yeah, I was gonna ask like, how prepared is California for this influx and what is California doing even moreso to get ready for all those people.

Melody: Right? So it creating new providers will take time. That's something that's in the budget, but that's not an immediate. Fix. And so the amount of people already coming in since Texas passed their // heartbeat law, that already created an issue in California, where providers were saying that there's longer lines and longer wait times now because of that. And so the influx of this many more people seeking care in California, particularly given that California is going to offer financial help to those people. I think that it's going to be something that. We'll have to be continued to watch. // I know that abortion providers are saying that they are concerned, but they also are wanting to position themselves to help women from other states.

Gustavo: What would be any restrictions for people who would wanna come to California to seek an abortion?

Melody: I think that there's a lot of concern about what other states will do to try to prevent their residents coming to California or any other state that allows for abortions. And so according to some of the experts that I've talked to, you're going to start seeing states try to create Penalties for going to other states. You have Texas right now that has penalties for anybody who aids in abets an abortion. But those are for ones in their state. Now, whether they begin to start targeting anybody who leaves their state will be extremely interesting. You have some law experts saying that that's really not something that they anticipate being able to withhold the strength of the law, because you have rights to travel and whether your rights to travel. Includes an abortion is something that will be interesting to watch // states try to fight over that. 


Governor Newsom at a press conference on Friday was very adamant that the state will ensure that it's welcoming women from other states.

Gavin Newsom: We're not gonna be asking for your ID. We're not gonna be asking. You a litany of questions that are asked in almost every other state, you have a right to confidentiality

Gustavo: coming up after the break, the legal ramifications for out-of-state abortions and what will it cost?


Gustavo: Melody, you mentioned this Western offense that California's also gonna team up with washington and Oregon. On abortion. What is that looking like? Or what are the plans for that?

Melody: This Western offense between Oregon and Washington,

Melody: These are the governors coming together and they really have in the past too for coronavirus protections.

Gavin Newsom: grateful to governor brown, governor Insley. Uh, Western governors have stood up.

And so you're seeing this west coast offense looking to ensure that whatever their state does to provide access to women from other states that they're able to do that without putting their own abortion providers. At risk of a lawsuit at risk of fines, and also trying to protect anybody who comes here.

Gavin Newsom: The United States, America at least has the Western United States. It will stand tall in terms of our reproductive, uh, values and reproductive freedoms. Uh, and we are sanctuary,

Melody: but there will be limits to that. And it'll be interesting to see how that ends up playing out.

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Gustavo: Melody. You mentioned that people are already scared, even though California might say, Hey, we're gonna be a sanctuary state for abortion, people from other states where abortions are gonna be banned. They're scared of going into California. And so the state's already trying to work on that. But how about doctors? Like how is California going to protect local doctors and clinics who do these services for those out-of-state patients?

Melody: Right. There's a law that was signed almost immediately after this decision came out on Friday. And it essentially is trying to create protections from civil liability for doctors here who provide abortions.And there is a couple other bills. Also that would kind of hit on this point too, protecting medical records and privacy. And so there are ways in which the state is trying to ensure that they won't help any of these investigations in other states. And I think that that's one of the biggest things that governor Newsom is saying is that we're not gonna help in any way, shape or form. We're not gonna enable. We're not gonna investigate. We're not gonna give any resources to help any other state come after our doctors or any patients that seek care here. 

Gustavo: What's the total amount of money that California wants to devote to expand abortion access?

Melody: The governor and the legislature are still working on the final budget. Right now. There's a deadline of June 30th for the governor to sign sort of that preliminary budget, but there will be discussions still moving forward. And in the governor's initial budget in January, there was money set aside to expand abortion providers and provide care here in the state, expecting that influx even before this decision. And in addition to that, the governor added another 50 million plus in his most recent budget in may. And so the lawmakers and Newsom are still kind of settling on what this total figure will look like, but they have wide consensus that they will be adding, you know, more than a hundred million dollars into this budget to ensure that there is the money there to push back against this decision.

Gustavo: That’s a big amount, so I don't doubt that Newsom really cares about abortion. But all this has  to mean more to him than just the issue?

Melody: I mean, this is an election year. Everything is kind of going to be seen through that election lens and Newsome, even on Twitter last month had said, you know, this is the defining issue of the 2022 election. So this is going to be something that could either drive Democrats to the polls and that can help their cause s.

Gavin Newsom: This is not just about women. This is not just about choice. This is not just about reproductive freedom. They're coming after you next. 

Melody: I think Newsome's looking at this more from a human right aspect. I don't think that he's thinking that he needs to protect just the people in his state.

Gavin Newsom: It's a serious moment in American history. This great divergence now red states versus blue states.

Melody: He's stepping forward and is the leader in the voice of the blue team right now? Um, in this conversation,

Gavin Newsom: I am though very mindful that California can play an outsize role at this moment. I'm mindful of the fact that we punch above our weight. I'm mindful that this state is the largest and the most diverse state. In the world's most diverse democracy.


Melody: I mean, there's obviously like political implications here. This is somebody who has been known to raise his voice in terms of. Raising his hand and saying that California needs to do more for the state and be the bigger, um, part of the country. He often talks about its size in the world versus just its uh, role in the United States. And so I think that this is just sort of California's way is, is to push back and lead on issues that the state and its lawmakers say is the way that the country is headed

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Gustavo: more after the break.

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Gustavo: Melody. You've been mentioning that lawmakers in California are proposing even // bigger things. Now, like the very day that the Supreme court struck down Roe versus Wade, the California state Senator Tony. She announced that she does wanna introduce this bill to amend the state's constitution and enshrine the right to an abortion. What would that mean though? And how would it happen?

Melody: Right. So that Senate constitutional amendment 10. So this is the latest countermeasure, you know, to ensuring that this state has the strongest available. Abortion protections that they can create this doesn't actually change anything right now. And that's sort of the interesting part of this is that it's enshrining in the state constitution, abortion protections and your right to contraceptives. But those are both things that are already interpreted as being part of the constitution. So this is. Explicitly putting it in there, which the argument for that from Tony Atkins is essentially, you know, why take a risk you see with right now that relying on an interpretation of, you know, whether it's based on privacy or Liberty. It's not always going to hold up. And this is the, their way of essentially saying it's in there. You can read it yourself. Abortion is in our constitution as you're right. And that will go for a vote on Monday and is expected to pass in the state assembly. From there. It goes before voters in November

Gustavo: and finally melody. What you described about lawmakers wanting to make California the sanctuary state for abortion? It's all seems simple enough. But what challenges do you see in the coming weeks and months and even years for California's move on this?

Melody: I think that the issue of liability will be something. And how far can California go to protect Residents from other states.

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that will be something that's going to be really interesting to watch moving forward. And also how much can they do to provide safety from lawsuits and civil liabilities here in California for its own providers, if they are sued in another state, I think that there's still a lot of questions about just shat does it mean to open your doors to other states residents for this care and how far will other states go in trying to prevent their own residents from seeking care here?

Gustavo: Melody. Thank you so much for this conversation.

Melody: Thank you. 

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Gustavo: And that’s it for this episode of THE TIMES, daily news from the LA Times

Shannon Lin and Kasia Broussalian were the jefas on this episode and Mark Nieto mixed and mastered it. 

Our show is produced by Shannon Lin, Denise Guerra, Kasia Brousalian, David Toledo and Ashlea Brown. Our editorial assistants are Madalyn Amato and Carlos De Loera. Our intern is Surya Hendry. Our engineers are Mario Diaz, Mark Nieto and Mike Heflin. Our editor is Kinsee Morlan. Our executive producers are Jazmin Aguilera and Shani Hilton. And our theme music is by Andrew Eapen. 

I'm Gustavo Arellano. We'll be back tomorrow with all the news and desmadre. Gracias.

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