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Abortion is still legal in California. Here are answers to questions about access in the state

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Kris Hooks
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CapRadio
Hundreds of demonstrators from two separate groups converged at the California State Capitol Friday, June 24, 2022 to protest the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the decades-old ruling that legalized abortion.

Whether you’re a California resident or thinking about traveling to California for an abortion, here’s what you need to know about the state’s abortion landscape and protections.

States again have the final say in abortion access within their borders Friday, after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in a historic vote.

A leaked draft opinion released in May alluded to the ruling, announced Friday morning, and prompted California legislators to push forward on legislation that would make Calfornia a “sanctuary state” for abortion.

Because of that, UC Davis law professor Mary Ziegler says she expects to see a “big surge in travel … from out-of-state to California” from non-residents seeking abortions.

“People who are seeking abortions in California may have a harder time getting appointments, may see facilities get more crowded because abortion care will essentially become more concentrated,” she said.

Still, abortion access is spotty throughout the state: A 2017 report by the Guttmacher Institute, which researches abortion rights and access, found 40% of counties in California didn’t have an abortion clinic.

Whether you’re a California resident or thinking about traveling to California for an abortion, here’s what you need to know about the state’s abortion landscape and protections.

This is an ongoing story and will be updated.

Will the Supreme Court ruling affect California law?

No — the June 24 ruling, Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women Health Organization, does not make abortion unconstitutional. It just gives the states the individual right to decide what abortion access looks like within their borders.

California legislators are also taking additional steps to secure the state’s role as a “sanctuary” for those seeking abortion.

CalMatters has created a searchable table compiling legislation about abortion and reproductive health introduced in the 2021-2022 session.

Under current California law, minors do not need parental consent to get an abortion. For more information about your legal rights, you can go to reprolegalhelpline.org or call the Repro Legal Helpline at (844) 868-2812.

What protections will be available to out-of-state residents who travel to California for an abortion?

On Friday afternoon, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1666 into law. The law protects out-of-state patients who travel to California for an abortion from lawsuits in other states. It also protects providers who come to the state to give an abortion.

Those protections take effect immediately.

Also on Friday, Newsom, along with Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Washington Governor Jay Inslee, announced the Multi-State Commitment to Reproductive Freedom via video message.

“This is another devastating step toward erasing the rights and liberties Americans have fought for,” Newsom said in the message. “We will not sit on the sidelines and allow patients who seek reproductive care in our states or the doctors that provide that care to be intimidated with criminal prosecution.”

What are my abortion options in California?

There are several ways to get an abortion, so you’ll need to decide what option is best for you.

During the first trimester (0-13 weeks), there are two options: medication abortion, also known as the “abortion pill”, or a procedural abortion.

  • Medication abortion: For the first 10 weeks, clinicians can prescribe two FDA-approved drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, that will terminate the pregnancy. In California, telehealth abortion is legal, meaning you can consult a doctor online and have pills mailed to you. 
  • Procedural abortion: Up to the 13-week point, the uterus can be emptied via manual or machine suction. The process is completed in a doctor’s office or clinic, with local anesthesia usually offered.

After that, in the second trimester of pregnancy, up to 24 weeks, you can get an induction abortion, during which a provider will use dilation and evacuation to empty the uterus. It must be conducted by a physician, and a patient is usually under general anesthesia, meaning they are asleep during the procedure.

After that point, abortion is only legal in California until a fetus reaches 24 weeks or weighs 500 grams, unless the life or health of the pregnant person is at risk.

If you have access to a healthcare provider, reach out to your doctor to talk through your possible options.

Otherwise, you can call the free miscarriage and abortion hotline at 833-246-2632 for more information about abortion options in the state.

KQED has answers to what options currently exist for insured and uninsured patients seeking an abortion.

But starting in 2023, due to a new law prohibiting insurance companies from imposing cost-sharing on anyone seeking an abortion, all abortion-related services in California — including consultations and follow-up care — will be free.

What can I do to protect the right to abortion?

“Historically, the people who’ve been most affected by abortion bans are people without resources, particularly people of color without resources,” Ziegler, the UC Davis law professor, said. “The theoretical ability to travel to California won’t mean much for people who can’t pay for it unless California puts dollars behind the promise to be a sanctuary state.”

One way you can help: Investing in existing, grassroots reproductive health infrastructure that work with people directly and don’t have the longstanding funding support national organizations like Planned Parenthood do.

That can look donating to abortion funds, which pay for the cost of the procedure, or practical support organizations, which handle the logistics — travel, lodging, childcare and more.

There are websites through which you can find and donate to your local abortion fund and local practical support organization. You can also donate to Keep Our Clinics, which funds independent abortion clinics to help them continue providing care. Independent clinics provide almost 60% of all abortions in the country, and are more likely to provide medication, procedural and later-in-pregnancy abortions than Planned Parenthood, Jezebel reports.

You can also volunteer for a practical support organization. In California, you can volunteer through Access Reproductive Justice’s Practical Support Network, a corps of people throughout California who help people physically make it to their appointments.

Or, if you want to work as an abortion doula — someone who helps support patients emotionally and mentally as they undergo the abortion process — you can look for community trainings. The California-based Bay Area Doula Project and the international cooperative Dopo are a few groups offering abortion doula education, and can also connect patients with abortion doulas near them. Applications for the Dopo training close July 3.

If you work in the legal field, you can join the nonprofit group If/When/How’s RJ Lawyer Network, which provides legal trainings, education or support for legal professionals who are interested in protecting reproductive rights and access to reproductive healthcare.

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