As the U.S. Supreme Court weighs two cases from Mississippi and Texas that significantly restrict people’s access to abortion, California is poised to become the nation’s biggest reproductive care provider, welcoming out-of-state patients who can’t find those services in their regions.
The justices recently heard arguments involving a law in Mississippi that prohibits abortion after 15 weeks. They’re also considering the constitutionality of a law that went into effect in Texas this fall, banning most abortions there after six weeks.
Jodi Hicks, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, says abortion providers in the Golden State are already seeing impacts.
“We have been seeing a ripple effect of folks needing to come in and seek services outside of the place that they live.”
In 2020, Planned Parenthood accepted more than 7,000 patients from Texas in 2020 since the restrictive abortion law end into place, according to Hicks.
“We saw an average of one to two patients a day, and that's just one state. [For] patients traveling from Texas or trying to get appointments in a neighboring state, if that state was impacted in full, some of those folks have to go elsewhere.”
If the nation’s highest court sides with Texas and Mississippi, there will likely be an influx of patients.
The Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research group, estimates that if the Supreme Court upholds the Mississippi law, two dozen states could ban abortion altogether. That means California could see a 3,000% increase in the number of patients seeking care, according to the report.
“They predict some 1.7 million patients of reproductive age that will now find California as their closest help center.”
Governor Gavin Newsom also declared California will be a refuge for women seeking abortions.
“In California, we will ensure that women continue to have access to critical health care services, including abortion, and California will continue to lead the nation in expanding access to reproductive and sexual health care.”
With his encoruagement and that of other Democratic officials, Planned Parenthood and dozens of other organizations formed the Future of Access to Abortion Council in September. The goal of the task force is to examine barriers to abortion services and what health care providers need to do to prepare in the coming year, according to Hicks.
The council is expected to released a report this week with policy recommendations for the state about ways to preserve and increase access to abortion in California. Among the ideas being discussed are increasing financial support for abortion services and helping cover costs for people who need to travel.
Hicks says speeding up the licensing process for qualified providers is alo a priority.
“If we have physicians that were operating — say in Texas — and they want to come out to California, how can we expedite them being licensed in California? How do we house and incentivize providers to come to California?”
Hicks says abortion providers in California are committed to serving women who need care.
“It is hard to wrap your mind around what the impact is, and what the world will look like if we lose a constitutional right that all of us have woken up with for the last 50 years. Despite that being an overwhelming thing to plan for, we are planning for it.”