A pro-choice protest in Los Angeles on June 24, the day the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. One protester holds up a sign that says, “My Body, My Choice.” (Photo by Derek French/Pexels)

When Roe v. Wade was reversed by the Supreme Court last June, it is said to have set back women’s reproductive rights 50 years. The impact of the “Dobbs” decision to restrict abortion is now expected to disproportionately impact the most vulnerable, especially those women living in states that are hostile to abortion which will cause scores of women to be unable to get abortions and various other forms of reproductive health care in their home states.

It’s anticipated that many women will travel to California to seek care.

California and LA County, specifically, will continue to offer reproductive health care which includes providing abortion services. And in November, California voters will be going to the polls to consider adding these rights to the state constitution.

Meanwhile, planning for an influx of women coming from outside of California will need to be well facilitated.

The Dobbs ruling didn’t make abortion illegal but it allows individual states to restrict it.

As a result, many states have already imposed restrictions and near-total bans have already gone into effect in many Republican-led states, with as many as 15 so far making no exceptions to allow for abortions even for rape or incest. In Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and others, a victim will be forced to carry a pregnancy to term.

LA County and California will Continue to Offer Reproductive Care

“It’s important that LA County be a safe haven for women seeking abortion services,” said Holly Mitchell, chair of the LA County Board of Supervisors. “It’s our duty, particularly to those who have been historically underserved in Black and brown communities.”

Social service providers and public officials held a press briefing earlier this month with Ethnic Media Services to discuss the impending impact and the role the state of California is taking to facilitate what is expected to be an increased number of women who will seek abortion care here.

“With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, every woman in America now fears for our right to make decisions about our own body. We’re here today to inform all women that in Los Angeles County, if you are seeking access to reproductive care, including abortion services, we are here for you,” said Chanel Smith, executive director, LA County Women and Girls Initiative.

“The reality today is that since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier this summer, 21 million people across the country have lost access to abortion care. But even before the fall of Roe, increasing state restrictions over the past 10 years drove people to cross state lines to get abortions,” said Sylvia Castillo, director, Government and Community Affairs at Essential Access Health.

“In one recent study published by the Walker Institute it found that in 2020, just two years ago, 9% of abortions in the United States are obtained by people traveling out of their state of residence. So this was already happening,” Castillo said.

Safe Haven Access to Abortion Pilot Program

In anticipation of the Supreme Court’s action to reverse a woman’s “right to choose,” last January, the LA County Board of Supervisors, prior to the Supreme Court ruling, approved a pilot program called a “Safe Haven Access to Abortion.”

While the program is lauded to help anyone regardless of their financial resources, immigration status, or laws in other states where they may live — how the pilot program will be staffed and implemented has yet to be realized.

Dr. Susie Baldwin, medical director, Office of Women’s Health, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, posed the question, “How do we plan now to expand our workforce to be able to meet the reproductive health care of everyone in our county and those who are going to come here from other states, where they can no longer get some pregnancy-related services?

“Even sometimes, in some of these states, treatment for miscarriage is now banned or illegal. So we need to build a pipeline of people in LA County who want to do this work, everybody from nursing assistants to lab technicians, to nurses and doctors to support the care of all the people here and those who may come in the future,” said Baldwin.

“There’s a lot of confusion around what happens if you are in another state and you want to come to California, or you want to come to a state that is a safe haven and what are the ramifications there? I think it’s really important for us to be a beacon and to really be a safe place for anybody who is seeking reproductive health care or abortion services to be able to get those,” said Smith.

Not All Counties in California Have Abortion Clinics

“LA County really is a destination for abortion care for a couple of different reasons. The first thing that’s really important to know is that 22 of California’s 58 counties do not have an abortion clinic. So over 1/3 of our California counties don’t have a clinic, but Los Angeles County has 56 open abortion clinics. So it’s for individuals who don’t have a clinic in their county, particularly those individuals who often live in rural areas and more rural counties. LA is certainly a destination and a resource for them.”

“Among those who oftentimes face obstacles include women who are immigrants, unhoused, those who have mental health issues, substance abuse issues or are incarcerated,” said Baldwin.

“We want everyone in our county and those who are visiting us for health care to be able to access the services they need in a timely way, regardless of where they were born [or] how long they’ve been in this country. We know that for many people in the county, it can be difficult to get the health care they need because we face many barriers,” said Baldwin.

All the more reason that the message gets out that in California there is support and resources.

“It is communities of color, low-income communities and immigrant communities that bear the burden of abortion restrictions due to long-standing racial and structural inequity,” said Castillo.

“Various disparate sexual and reproductive health outcomes, a lot of misinformation and disinformation, is being purposely directed by anti-reproductive freedom factions toward communities of color and immigrant communities specifically want to make it clear that here in California, abortion care remains legal,” said Castillo.