California budget to cover out-of-state abortion trips

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California is preparing to spend up to $20 million to bring women from other states to its abortion clinics, a policy aimed at increasing access to a procedure that has been banned or restricted in many states since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade overthrown.

Governor Gavin Newsom had previously limited the money in the state’s “Abortion Practical Support Fund” for intra-state travel, saying “we need to be realistic about what we can absorb.” That decision surprised abortion proponents, especially since Newsom, a Democrat, had vowed to make California a haven for women in other states seeking abortions.

Abortion advocates have lobbied the governor’s office for weeks on the issue. Friday, just days before the end of the legislative session, Newsom and legislative leaders unveiled a budget amendment that would allow the state to spend public money on trips abroad for abortions. Lawmakers will vote on it next week.

While the fund will receive public money, it will also accept private donations — something the Newsom government says will be important to cover costs.

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“As the governor has stated, California is doing its part, but we can’t do everything — private donations and philanthropy will be critical to these efforts,” said Newsom spokesman Alex Stack. reproductive freedoms are being denied by their state governments and forced to come to California for abortion care.”

Jodi Hicks, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said the change is significant as state officials spent months building the state’s capacity to provide abortions in the wake of the US Supreme Court decision.

“It doesn’t matter if we don’t also make sure that patients can get where they need to go,” she said. “Everyone deserves to get health care, including abortion, and unfortunately half of the country has to travel outside the state they live in to get it.”

While some states prohibit or restrict access to abortion, some state and local governments have taken action to use public funds to help women in those states travel to get the procedure. In Republican-led states, city leaders in St. Louis, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio have pledged to use public money to help women have abortions.

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Oregon state lawmakers — anticipating an abortion ban in neighboring Idaho — agreed to spend $15 million to help women seek abortions. So far, $1 million has gone to the Northwest Abortion Access Fund, a nonprofit that helps patients pay for travel and the procedure itself. The fund had exhausted its planned operating budget this year and had to approve additional emergency funds amid growing demand for travel assistance, according to Riley Keane, practical support leader for the group.

In California, some of the money could go to Access Reproductive Justice, the only state-wide abortion relief fund. The group usually helps about 500 people a year get abortions, but director Jessica Pinckney said they’ve seen an increase since the US Supreme Court ruling. Recently, Pinckney said for the first time that the group helped more women living in other states than from California in one week.

“We’re definitely seeing an increase in Texans and Arizonans. We’re also starting to see people coming from Louisiana, Alabama — way beyond what we even expected,” Pinckney said. “I still don’t necessarily think we have the full story of what things are going to look like now in this post-Roe era.”

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The California Family Council, a nonprofit that opposes abortion rights, has lobbied against the spending this year, but without much success. Jonathan Keller, the group’s chairman, said the state should spend taxpayers’ money on what he believes is more urgent, such as homelessness and housing.

“The idea that the most urgent use of state funds would be to pay people from red states to fly here to have abortions on the California taxpayer’s dime is really just a mockery,” he said.

The state budget this year authorizes $4.8 billion to spend over three years on a range of housing and homelessness programs, in addition to the $9 billion lawmakers approved last year, according to the impartial Legislative Analyst’s Office.

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Europe Times News reporter Claire Rush contributed from Portland, Oregon.

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