California May Pay Some Out-of-State Residents' Abortion Costs if Roe V. Wade Overturned

The state of California could be gearing up to become a "sanctuary" for people requiring reproductive care if the Supreme Court overturns Roe V. Wade.

The California Future of Abortion Council has developed a list of 45 recommendations in the event that the 48-year-old Supreme Court decision prohibiting states from banning abortion is overturned. The council, which consists of advocacy groups and abortion providers, has a key member in Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom and has already begun discussing what to do for those coming to California out of state.

The council is recommending funding to help those coming from other states to seek reproductive care. That money would go towards things like lodging, transportation, gas and more. Abortion providers could also be reimbursed by the state if a patient, even those from out of state, cannot afford to pay for services. This particular measure is likely an extension of California's pre-existing Medicaid plan that allows low-income residents to receive abortions.

LA Abortion Protest
The state of California is exploring ways to assist out of state women who may travel to California for an abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe V. Wade. Pictured, protesters take part in the Women's March and Rally for Abortion Justice in Los Angeles, on October 2, 2021. Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"We'll be a sanctuary," Newsom said, adding he's aware patients will likely travel to California from other states to seek abortions. "We are looking at ways to support that inevitability and looking at ways to expand our protections."

California's coffers have soared throughout the pandemic, fueling a record budget surplus this year. Next year, the state's independent Legislative Analyst's Office predicts California will have a surplus of about $31 billion.

California's affiliates of Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, got a sneak preview of how people might seek abortions outside their home states this year when a Texas law that outlawed abortion after six weeks of pregnancy was allowed to take effect. California clinics reported a slight increase in patients from Texas.

It's unclear about how many people would come to California for abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned. But a recent report by the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, estimated about 1.3 million more women would drive to California to seek abortions. The institute predicts most of them would come from Arizona, which has a law on the books that would outlaw abortion once it becomes legal to do so.

"That will definitely destabilize the abortion provider network," said Fabiola Carrion, interim director for reproductive and sexual health at the National Health Law Program.

That's why the report asks lawmakers to give scholarships to medical students who pledge to offer abortion services in rural areas, help them pay off their student loans and assist with their monthly liability insurance premiums.

"We're looking at how to build capacity and build workforce," said Jodi Hicks, CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California. "It will take a partnership and investment with the state."

Abortion opponents in California, meanwhile, are also preparing for a potential surge of patients from other states seeking the procedure — only they hope to convince them not to do it.

Jonathan Keller, president and CEO of the California Family Council, said California has about 160 pregnancy resource centers whose aim is to convince women not to get abortions. He said about half of those centers are medical clinics, while the rest are faith-based counseling centers.

Many of the centers are located near abortion clinics in an attempt to entice people to seek their counseling before opting to end pregnancies. Keller said many are already planning on increasing their staffing if California gets an increase of patients.

"Even if we are not facing any immediate legislative opportunities or legislative victories, it's a reminder that the work of changing hearts and minds and also providing real support and resources to women facing unplanned pregnancies — that work will always continue," Keller said.

He added: "In many ways, that work is going to be even more important, both in light of Supreme Court's decision and in light of whatever Sacramento decides they are going to do in response."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Come and Take It LA
On Wednesday Dec. 8, 2021, a group of abortion providers and advocacy groups recommended California should use public money to bring people here from other states for abortion services should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade. The report has the backing of key legislative leaders, including Senate President Pro Team Toni Atkins, a Democrat. Pictured, demonstrators rally to to demand continued access to abortion during the March for Reproductive Justice, October 2, 2021, in downtown Los Angeles. AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, file