Make California a national beacon for reproductive health care access

In summary

The governor must sign legislation to expand access and protect protections for sexual and reproductive health care here in California — including abortion care.

By Cristina Garcia

Assemblywoman Cristina GarciaD-Bell Gardens, is chair of the Women’s Legislative Caucus, which represents and advocates on behalf of women, children and families across California.

Nancy Skinner, CalMatters Special

State Sen. Nancy SkinnerD-Berkeley, is vice chair of the Women’s Legislative Caucus.

In Ohio, a 10-year-old had to cross state lines to receive life-saving abortion care.

In Texas, doctors who perform abortions now face life in prison.

And in Missouri and 11 other states, abortions are now prohibited even in cases of rape and incest.

Following the US Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade, radical and dangerous forced-birth policies have swept the country. More than a third of American women now live in states with draconian anti-abortion laws that make access to care impossible and put the health and well-being of women and families at grave risk.

We saw this dystopian future coming: Signals were clear a year ago that the Supreme Court intended to overturn Roe. In California, we were ready.

With the support of Gov. Gavin Newsom and leaders in the Legislature, more than 40 organizations—health care providers, reproductive rights and reproductive justice organizations, legal and policy experts, researchers, and advocates—joined to form the Future Council of Abortion in California. .

The council began work, identifying barriers to abortion services and recommending policy proposals that support equitable and affordable access to abortion care for Californians and all who seek care here. And the Women’s Legislative Caucus — female lawmakers and state senators — responded with enthusiasm and turned more than a dozen council recommendations into 15 bills aimed at ensuring our state is ready to meet this milestone.

Last month, the Legislature gave final approval to this sweeping package of legislation, which is now on the desk of Gov. Newsom. The bills, crafted with longtime input from reproductive health, rights and justice advocates, work together to expand access and protect protections for sexual and reproductive health care here in California, including abortion care.

They also guarantee strong access to reproductive care for those from other states who seek abortions here because of increasingly strict bans in their own states.

Specifically, bills authored by members of the Legislative Women’s Caucus address barriers to obtaining abortion care in California, such as cost and access to essential and unbiased information. They also strengthen civil and criminal protections for patients and providers and invest in abortion care providers. We are proud that these bills recognize significant historical disparities in health care and focus on the reproductive health needs of Black, Indigenous and other people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, people in rural areas, youth, immigrants and those with lower income.

In this moment of national crisis, California should be a beacon of hope. Hundreds of millions of people, including millions of people of reproductive age, live in states where reactionary politicians are determined to eliminate bodily autonomy and take away rights.

People are scared. They are confused. They are desperate. And they will continue to need access to abortion care, no matter what radical politicians or conservatives on the Supreme Court say or do.

We know California can be a safe, welcoming and affirming place for them to get the care they need. Bills from the legislative women’s caucus would make this vision of California a reality.

Earlier this summer, Governor Newsom signed several of these bills into law, along with the 2022-2023 state budget, which included a record $200 million to protect and improve reproductive care and abortion services in California.

We now call on the governor to sign the rest of the bills in the Legislative Women’s Caucus package into law as soon as possible. You can weigh the bill package here.

The stakes are too high to fail and the time for half measures is over. We must act now for the sake of Californians and for those who will seek refuge in the Golden State.

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Cristina Garcia has previously written about environmental justice.

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