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As published on CalMatters.

A new Texas state law restricting abortions and a Supreme Court case from Mississippi could have dire consequences in California. 

Since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion in 1973, American women and their families have benefited greatly. Unfortunately, decisions about abortion access elsewhere could roll back 50 years of progress, even for Californians, unless we take action now. 

Last week, Texas enacted a near total ban on abortions. More than 600 abortion restrictions have passed nationwide in 2021 alone. The outcome of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, being argued before the Supreme Court this fall, could overturn Roe v. Wade. If this happens, it will embolden anti-abortion lawmakers in other states to dismantle Americans’ constitutional rights even further – and Californians will find it harder to get the care they need. 

We cannot be complacent. As an OB/GYN, it’s my job to tell the truth about abortion, and what we all will lose if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures out there – complications from getting a wisdom tooth pulled or taking Viagra are more likely. It’s also a common medical procedure: one in four women will have an abortion in their lifetime. Abortion rights, along with improved contraception access, directly correlate with women’s educational and professional attainment. Children and families are more likely to thrive if parents can choose if, when and how many children they have. Federal lawmakers have acknowledged for more than 40 years that abortion and family planning saves taxpayers money.

Unfortunately, many state restrictions like the extreme case in Texas, as well as federal policies like the Hyde Amendment, make it incredibly difficult to obtain an abortion, particularly for Black, Latinx, Indigenous and people of color, low-income individuals and people in rural areas. Even though Medi-Cal will cover an abortion in California, it’s often only accessible to those who can find childcare, take time off work and travel to a health center providing abortion care. 

Recently, I treated a patient who traveled three hours by bus from Barstow for an abortion at one of our health centers. She didn’t have anyone to watch her kids, so they traveled with her and stayed with one of our staff members in the waiting room during her procedure. She was able to get back on the bus with her children later that day, with peace of mind knowing she could continue supporting them. 

Others like her might not be so lucky. 

If Roe v. Wade is overturned and laws like Senate Bill 8 in Texas are enacted elsewhere, California’s health care system, already strained by COVID-19, will be overwhelmed by patients from other states traveling here for abortions. Last year, more than 7,000 out-of-state patients came to a Planned Parenthood health center in California to get care they were unable to obtain in their home state. 

With the list of extreme state laws growing, there’s no doubt this number will grow too. Our capacity is not infinite, and some Californians like my patient from Barstow will be squeezed out. 

We are grateful our leaders have expanded abortion rights in California, but it’s crucial to maintain the Golden State’s status as a Reproductive Freedom state. Here’s what you can do to help:  

  • Vote “No” on Question 1 in the Republican-led recall attempt of Gov. Gavin Newsom. 
  • Vote out elected officials at all levels of government who don’t support safe, legal abortion, access to contraception and sexual health education.
  • Support or volunteer with Planned Parenthood organizations in Southern and Northern California.

We must fight for abortion rights to give all families the future they deserve. Even in California, lives are on the line. 

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