Sunday, May 22

Right to abortion threatened: California braces for influx of patients

California is preparing to welcome an influx of women wishing to benefit from voluntary abortion if the Supreme Court of the United States soon changes, as many expect, the legal framework that has guaranteed the right to abortion since 1973 .

Encouraged by Governor Gavin Newsom and other elected Democrats, some 40 civil rights, public health promotion and family planning organizations on Wednesday made a list of very specific recommendations for California to be able to respond to requests for abortion from all women, whether they live in the State or elsewhere.

Governor Newsom publicly welcomed the creation at the end of September of this “Council for the Future of Abortion” to “expand access to sexual and reproductive health, including abortion following restrictions. dangerous, harmful and unconstitutional implemented in Texas “. This southern state, mostly conservative, has banned abortions since September 1 from six weeks of pregnancy.

Abortion rights advocates are now worried about another threat: the Supreme Court seems willing to give the green light to a law passed in 2018 by Mississippi that bans abortion after 15 weeks of gestation.

This law violates the framework of the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” judgment, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the US Constitution guarantees the right of women to abort as long as the fetus is not “viable”, either. around 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy, and its entry into force has so far been blocked as such.

If the temple of law, which must render its decision by the end of June, validates this local law, many other conservative states wishing to end abortion could rush into the breach.

Sign of the deep divide on the subject in the United States, Mississippi has a single center practicing pregnancy terminations while California, the most populous state, has more than 150.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Mississippi, 26 US states would decide “certainly or probably” to ban abortion in their territory.

In fact, if the “Roe v. Wade” judgment was broken or “significantly weakened”, 21 states already have laws or amendments in place that would allow them to act very quickly, underlines this research institute on reproductive health.

Consequence: tens of thousands of women unable to have an abortion at home would seek a solution in neighboring states, which would risk being overwhelmed.

– “Reproductive freedom” for all –

On the ground, associations are already feeling the effects of the ban decreed in Texas in early September. The family planning network in California, for example, now sees two to three patients arriving every day from Texas.

The Californian NGO Access Reproductive Justice, which provides administrative and financial assistance to women wishing to have an abortion, also reports a “rise in calls from Texas”. “We know that the obstacles tend to be greater for people who do not come from California because they have to pay for the plane or the bus,” Jessica Pinckney, director of the NGO, told AFP.

She cites “often poignant cases of women who did not realize they were pregnant for six or seven weeks, who do not have access to health care in their state and who cannot benefit from their insurance to cover the cost. “, which may vary according to her from 200 to 6,000 dollars depending on the case.

“Globally, they are forced to carry out an unwanted pregnancy or to take radical decisions to leave their state”, laments Ms. Pinckney.

Democratic stronghold and spearhead of the opposition to the ultra-conservative policies of former President Donald Trump, California officially proclaimed itself in May 2019 as a State guaranteeing “reproductive freedom” for all, solemnly pledging to defend the right to abortion.

Already in 2014, it had adopted legislation forcing employers and private insurance companies to include reimbursement of abortions in their health coverage.

When Donald Trump tried to put pressure on California last year to cancel this provision, Governor Newsom denounced a “petty political act”, recalling that “women’s health is public health”.

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