County to be haven for women seeking abortions

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — Amid news that the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn the landmark abortion-rights decision Roe v. Wade, the county Board of Supervisors May 3 threw its support behind a proposed pilot project aimed at making the county a safe haven for women seeking abortions and reproductive health care.

The issue was already on the board’s agenda, but it took on added significance May 2 when Politico, a news website, reported that the U.S. Supreme Court has voted to strike down abortion protections provided under the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling.

Politico obtained what it called a draft ruling written by Justice Samuel Alito that opines, in part, “‘Roe’ was egregiously wrong from the start.’”

Chief Justice John Robert confirmed the authenticity of the draft ruling, but stressed it is not a final decision and could potentially change. He also condemned the leak of the document to the media and ordered an investigation into its release.

Politico noted that the document is still in draft form, and Supreme Court decisions can change based on the drafts of rulings. It notes the ruling will not be final until it is published, likely within the next two months. But the document states the ruling was supported by four other Republican-appointed justices — Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

If the decision does become final, it would strike down one of the most debated Supreme Court rulings of the past century. Roe v. Wade guarantees abortion rights throughout the U.S. until the fetus is viable, typically between 22 and 24 weeks. Overturning the decision would strip away federal protection of abortion rights, and leave it up to individual states to set abortion policy.

Notoriously liberal California is unlikely to take steps to ban or limit access to abortion, and discussions have already been under way about creating safe havens for women across the country to pursue reproductive health care in the state.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in support of Senate Bill 1245, which would establish a “reproductive health-care pilot project in the county to support innovated approaches and patient-centered collaborations to safeguard patient access to abortions, regardless of residency,” according to the motion by Supervisors Holly Mitchell and Sheila Kuehl.

“It would also amplify the work of being a safe haven for abortion and reproductive health care,” according to the motion. “This bill aims to address the current barriers to accessing abortion care in California and will expand the work around sexual and reproductive health-care services in the largest county in the nation.”

The motion specifically calls on the county’s lobbyists in Sacramento to advocate in support of the legislation — contingent on the state allocating funds to support the program and a one-time budget request of $20 million for the pilot project.

All five members of the Board of Supervisors — all women — expressed shock at the content of the draft Supreme Court ruling, but said they remain committed to preserving reproductive rights.

“We need to stand at this moment … as a beacon, as a rational, welcoming and supporting place,” Kuehl said. “L.A. County provides a large percentage of the reproductive health care services in the state, including abortions. But that’s appropriate. We’re a quarter of the state.”

Supervisor Janice Hahn called the draft ruling “terrible,” and said she hoped the protests that have erupted nationwide might convince the justices to “rethink … one of the worst decisions they would ever make.”

Supervisor Kathryn Barger — the lone Republican on the non-partisan board — said she never thought the words “safe haven” would be needed when it comes to access for abortion. She said the draft ruling “leaves me scratching my head.”

Supervisor Hilda Solis added: “Abortion care to me is health care. It’s reproductive care. People should understand that we’re really talking about harming our health care system for women, our children.”

Last month, Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez introduced a motion aimed at preparing the city for a possible influx of people from other states seeking abortions in California in response to a possible ruling against Roe v. Wade.

“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. I stand with women, California stands with women, and today, our city has reaffirmed that Los Angeles stands with and for women.”

Martinez’s motion, if passed by the City Council, 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 analyst would identify how the city could respond to a possible increase in demand for abortions in Los Angeles, as other areas of the country may ban abortions or enact more strict measures against them.

Martinez’s office cited a study from the Guttmacher Institute that said California is likely to experience a 3,000% increase — from 46,000 to 1.4 million — of women of reproductive age whose closest abortion provider is California.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision stems from the Mississippi case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In violation of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Mississippi passed a law in 2018 prohibiting abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.

Mississippi’s abortion law followed a strategy by anti-abortion groups to ban abortion after they claim fetuses experience pain, according to the Washington Post. However, most research says that fetuses do not experience pain until 29 or 30 weeks into the pregnancy, the newspaper reported.

Reaction to the leaked decision was quick.

U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, said it was time Congress acted to “protect the fundamental right to choose.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein took to Twitter, saying “Generations of women have relied on protections provided by Roe. This dangerous, ill-conceived opinion must not become law of the land.”

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, called it a “heartbreaking day for our nation.”

“As a direct result of wrongheaded, backwards ideology, decades of established law and precedent will be at risk of being overturned and if that happens, women across our country will pay the price, with low income women of color experiencing the most severe impact,” said Bass, a candidate for mayor of Los Angeles.”

The other front-runner in the mayor’s race, billionaire real estate developer Rick Caruso, tweeted, “I profoundly disagree with the draft decision that was made public tonight. If it becomes final, the justices in the majority will have taken away the rights of millions of people in this country and put lives in jeopardy.”

Planned Parenthood Los Angeles issued a statement reinforcing that its health centers “remain open” and stressing that “abortion is currently still legal, and we will continue to fight like hell to protect the right to access safe, legal abortion in Los Angeles, California, and across the United States.”


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