More abortions and more people casting votes in November.
Also, more outrage and frustration.
All of those disparate trends and emotions could come to Southern California if the Supreme Court overturns or severely limits Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that guaranteed a federal constitutional right to an abortion.
On the abortion front, the upturn is already underway.
Since September, when Texas enacted a controversial law that outlaws abortion after a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat (typically around six weeks), the number of out-of-state women seeking to terminate their pregnancies at Planned Parenthood clinics in Southern California has roughly quadrupled, according to officials from local chapters of that organization.
But that trend could kick into overdrive if Roe is struck down as a leaked Supreme Court draft decision suggested. At least 26 states are poised to ban or severely restrict abortion if and when the Supreme Court takes action, states that include about 58% of American women of child-bearing age.
In a post-Roe world, many of those women will turn to California, where abortion rules are arguably the most lenient in the country.
“It could be a deluge,” said Nichole Ramirez, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood’s nine-office region in Orange and San Bernardino counties.
“The dismantling (of Roe) would impact about 36 million Americans, most of whom are women of color and women without money,” Ramirez added.
On the political front, consultants of all political stripes believe the question isn’t if but how much a move to strike down Roe will animate voters. And many predict the biggest upturn will come from voters who previously weren’t expected to turn out in big numbers – younger women.
“This year’s mid-term was going to be one of the most boring, low-turnout elections we’ve had in a long time,” said Adam Probolsky, an Irvine-based political researcher and pollster.
“But now, with that draft by (Supreme Court Justice Samuel) Alito out there, you have every 18- to 25-year-old woman, every younger voter in general, with a keen interest in the outcome of this election, from federal offices on down,” Probolsky said.
“Nobody can say right now exactly how much this will change things, but every political consultant in this country is recalibrating what they expect for turnout in November.”
And on the outrage front, local pro-life advocates were thrilled that the Supreme Court might be poised to give their cause the win they’ve sought for two generations – but they saw an anti-Roe ruling as a starting point.
“We are cautiously optimistic. … The ruling would help make it clear to everyone who is paying attention that there is no right to abortion in this nation,” said Susan S. Arnall, vice president of legal affairs for the Right to Life League, a Pasadena-based group that pushes for tougher abortion laws.
And while Arnall said an anti-Roe ruling would “absolutely buoy pro-life forces,” she expressed frustration with several proposals in Sacramento to make abortion easier and more affordable in California.
Her group’s fight against California’s abortion stance, Arnall suggested Tuesday, would only intensify if the Supreme Court strikes down Roe.
“I’m flying to Sacramento tomorrow.”
If California has the most lenient abortion laws in the country, it might be because public opinion backs that.
While national polls show roughly two-thirds of Americans don’t want to see Roe overturned by the court, California voters are particularly supportive of a woman’s right to choose. A June 2021 poll from the California Public Policy Institute found 77% of state voters – including 59% of Republicans – don’t want to see Roe erased.
That context was clear in Sacramento late Monday and into Tuesday.
Minutes after news broke about the Supreme Court draft ruling, Gov. Gavin Newsom took to Twitter to say, “California will not sit back. We are going to fight like hell.” By Tuesday, lawmakers were pushing to codify the right to an abortion into the state Constitution.
But over the past year, in anticipation of an anti-Roe ruling by the Supreme Court, state lawmakers, health providers and others have been pushing for new legislation to widen abortion access statewide.
At least 10 bills are being discussed in Sacramento that would do everything from cover out-of-pocket expenses for women, protect health providers from civil suits filed against them in other states and expand the world of medical experts who can legally provide an abortion procedure or prescribe a medical abortion.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday encourage passage of a State Senate bill that would make L.A. County a safe haven for women seeking abortions and other reproductive care.
One proposal, from Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie Norris, D-Laguna Beach, would train health care workers to provide abortions in underserved parts of the state. Another would create a reproductive health pilot program in Los Angeles County.
Still, news that Roe might go away also sparked an instant response among activists – and from people who say they don’t consider themselves activists but said they’ll speak out against the government having control over a woman’s decision to have a child.
Late Tuesday, groups throughout Southern California were planning to demonstrate in support of women’s rights.
“It is part of a national response,” Riverside resident Chani Beeman, who for many years has been an advocate for women’s rights, said about plans Tuesday by several groups in Southern California to demonstrate in support of women’s rights.
“It will be a wave across the country.”
Connie Ransom, who helped lead the 2017 Riverside Women’s March, planned to attend a rally in Riverside.
“This is just astonishing that this has come to pass,” Ransom said
“It’s just going backwards. It’s like (the current national debate on) voting rights — it’s taking away the individual freedom of women.”
Motivation For All
“The timing of this feels … planned,” said Arnall of the Right to Life League.
“This leak of the Supreme Court feels like something aimed at stirring up Democratic voters. It’s trying to give them something to run on when they’ve got nothing else.”
It’s possible that an anti-Roe ruling could work that way, particularly in races for razor-close House seats in Southern California. Three of the 10 House districts in the nation in which voters chose a representative of a political party that was different from their choice for president are in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
All three feature incumbents who favor the eradication of Roe, and opponents who say they support a woman’s right to choose.
Political consultant Probolsky said “there’s a chance, but nothing certain,” that an anti-Roe ruling could shift those races in favor of Democrats.
“Politics is about constituencies. If something moves 2% or 4% of voters in a tight race, that can be enough.”
But, he added, “don’t be fooled by polling” that suggests people who are against changing Roe vs. Wade are also for lenient abortion rules generally.
“A lot of people who don’t want to see Roe changed, at least in Southern California, probably just are in favor of the status quo. They’re happy to have it be a non-issue.”
But Arnall, of the Right to Life League, said even if the ruling helps Democrats in the midterm, it also could serve as motivation for anti-abortion forces who want a national law restricting the practice.
“Abortion will always be legal, in some way. … The law falls on the right to life, including the mother’s,” Arnall said.
“But the issue comes down to one of civil rights. If Roe is struck down, it will be huge move for civil rights,” she added.
“It’ll just be a start,” she added. “We won’t give up.”
Ramirez of Planned Parenthood echoed that.
“We’ve been preparing for this outcome,” she said.
“No matter what happens around the country, our doors will remain open to everybody.”