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California enhances abortion protections for women in and out of state

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to leave access to abortion services up to states, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared California “must do everything it can to protect the fundamental rights of all women — in California and beyond.”

And with only a few days left to sign legislation, Newsom made good on that promise, signing more than a dozen bills proponents said would increase protections for women seeking abortion services in California.

Among them was a bill from Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris that establishes a recruitment and training program for reproductive health care professionals. Dubbed the California Reproductive Health Services Corps, the program would administer stipends, scholarships and loan repayments to health care professionals and students who serve at least three years in California.

The plan is two-fold, according to Petrie-Norris. The program would shore up the reproductive health services workforce as California is expected to see an influx of out-of-state patients seeking services while also providing care in underserved areas of the state.

As of 2017, 40% of counties in California (representing about 3% of women in the state) did not have an abortion provider, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization. And nine counties don’t have an OB-GYN.

“This is an urgent need. This is a really scary time for women in America,” Petrie-Norris, D-Laguna Beach, told the Southern California News Group. “All across the country, we are seeing our fundamental reproductive rights being assaulted. California really is a beacon of hope.”

Other bills included in the slate that got the OK from Newsom this week specifically position California to go head to head with states that banned abortion procedures after the Supreme Court overturned Roe in late June.

One, from Assemblywoman Mia Bonta, an Oakland Democrat who is married to California Attorney General Rob Bonta, restricts a health care provider from releasing abortion-related medical information as part of a request based on another state’s anti-abortion laws.

And another, from Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, D-Orinda, prohibits law enforcement from cooperating with out-of-state entities regarding a lawful abortion in California. It also protects someone who obtained a lawful abortion or aided in the process of obtaining lawful abortion services in California from being arrested.

Other approved bills will provide grants to providers who deliver care to low-income patients, create an abortion services website, require health insurance plans to cover over-the-counter birth control and expand training opportunities for certified nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners to provide abortion services.

“My colleagues and I saw the imminent danger headed for national abortion access more than a year ago and have spent every day since working to not only protect reproductive rights but expand them,” Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins said. “Our package of bills ensures that all Californians, and anyone who needs to come here, will receive the essential health care they need and the respect they deserve.”

Although the governor and legislature worked to shore up protections for abortion services this year, in particular, the consensus on abortion access in California isn’t universal.

“Gov. Newsom and the Democrat legislature prioritize abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy over the real needs of Californians,” Mary Rose Short, director of outreach for California Right to Life, told the Southern California News Group. “This slew of lethal bills does nothing to help any mother who feels pressured to have an abortion because of her circumstances but instead makes abortion the preferred choice of the government. The state of California is elevating delivering a dead child over delivering a live one.”

“From lowering safety standards concerning who can perform abortions to hindering the enforcement of other states’ laws that protect their citizens and children from abortion to paying for women to come here for abortions, these bills are a bonanza for the California abortion industry,” she added.

Just hours after the governor signed the slate of reproductive health-related bills, Temecula’s City Council convened with a controversial resolution before it: Should the council consider making the city a “sanctuary city for Temecula’s unborn?”

After an emotional meeting, the council ultimately rejected the anti-abortion resolution — albeit, some council members expressed their pro-life beliefs and concerns that the “sanctuary city” resolution wasn’t clear enough.

A similar “sanctuary city” proposal was considered by the San Clemente City Council in August. But that one, too, ultimately failed.

But meanwhile, in Los Angeles County, the Board of Supervisors formally opposed this week a national bill proposed by South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham to ban abortions after 15 weeks throughout the U.S.

It’s proposals like that that fuel pro-choice proponents’ attention on the upcoming election, said Sadaf Rahmani, the director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties.

She said efforts are focused on passing Proposition 1, a constitutional amendment that would enshrine guaranteed access to abortion and contraceptives in the California Constitution, as well as electing pro-choice candidates to Congress who could block a bill like Graham’s.

And a focus is also on electing pro-choice candidates at the local level to prevent resolutions like those brought forth in San Clemente and Temecula, said Nichole Ramirez, PPOSBC’s senior vice president of communications.

“We’re really leading the nation with (reproductive health care access) work, but we can’t be complacent,” Rahmani said. “We need to continue this momentum and make sure people get out and vote.”

Staff writer Allyson Vergara contributed to this report.

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