A year after Dobbs, local abortion providers reflect on changes and challenges

Written by Giuliana Mayo and Amy Ta

Activists walk with a Planned Parenthood LA banner that says, “Repro rights = LGBTQ rights.” Photo by Shutterstock.

The fall of Roe vs. Wade came as a disappointment but not a surprise to Sue Dunlap, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood LA (PPLA). The organization was already preparing for how a reversal of precedent would affect their ability to provide reproductive health services. 

In the year since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, unexpected challenges have risen from some states, like Texas and Oklahoma, that are looking to criminalize abortion providers, and other states looking to outlaw abortion pills.

“Los Angeles is one of the few places in the country where we must be prepared, no matter what comes. ... But my expectation is that it gets much worse before it gets better,” says Dunlap.

PPLA has seen more out-of-state patients coming to them for abortion care and medication, but they could be criminalized when they return home to, say, Texas, she points out. 

“Like so much of sexual and reproductive health care, there are elements of shame and stigma. But also, the numbers just don't add up. And that's because people are intentionally being victimized and criminalized in this space.”

PPLA’s providers could be criminalized, too, for administering services that are legal in the state. That’s another worry Dunlap is facing.

“Legislators and activists didn't write in criminalization of providers, or of people traveling across state lines, just for the fun of it. They are absolutely moving towards criminalization.”

Meanwhile, the biggest obstacle for people trying to ban abortions is medication, she notes. “Medication abortion is why we are not seeing all of the horrifying images that we were so used to in pre-Roe America and post-Roe America. And our opponents know that too.” 

New providers — some from abroad — are figuring out ways to get abortion meds into the U.S., and the more complex these networks are, the tougher they are to stop, Dunlap says. 

Though she’s optimistic that abortion activists will prevail in the long run, a potential national ban is worrisome.  

“We are forcing people to carry pregnancies that they don't want in this country and people are having to cross state lines to get them and providers are afraid of going to jail. That is not a maybe, that's not tomorrow. That's today. And if we don't think that that's happening in Los Angeles, if we don't think that those fears are justified in Los Angeles, we haven't been paying attention.”