State lawmakers are positioning California as a broad health care sanctuary following a Supreme Court draft opinion on Tuesday showing the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court is in favor of striking down Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 court ruling that gave constitutional rights to an abortion.
Immediately following the news of the leaked opinion memo, which was first reported by Politico, Gov. Gavin Newsom and other Democratic state leaders announced an amendment to the state constitution that would codify the right to have an abortion into state law.
But abortion is just one medical need for which California lawmakers want to create a refuge.
State lawmakers have been leading nationwide legislative efforts to provide health care for transgender youth, who have been the target of anti-LGBTQ legislation blocking access to gender-affirming care. Gender-affirming health care could entail medical, social, behavioral or therapeutic interventions aimed at supporting an individual’s gender identity.
In addition, the state recently expanded access to the public health care program Medi-Cal to all undocumented adults within the eligible income threshold.
But the fight for abortion rights took center stage Monday night.
“California will not stand idly by as women across America are stripped of their rights and the progress so many have fought for gets erased. We will fight,” Newsom said. “We know we can’t trust the Supreme Court to protect reproductive rights, so California will build a firewall around this right in our state constitution. Women will remain protected here.”
San Francisco lawmakers are following with local abortion access inititiaves for women in states where rights could soon be restricted.
A proposed program loosely outlined by San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen on Tuesday would sponsor women in states where abortion is illegal to receive one in San Francisco. In anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the legal right to abortion, Ronen requested that the board’s Budget and Legislative Analyst with estimating the cost of sponsoring 1,000 or more women to both travel to – and receive an abortion in – San Francisco.
“We know what happens when abortion is outlawed – poor women, mostly women of color, die,” Ronen told The Examiner.
Ronen’s request was hastily drafted following Monday night’s leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn the abortion protections provided by Roe v. Wade. It seeks an analysis of the cost of implementing the abortion sponsorship program in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Abortion rights are protected under California’s right to privacy, but the lawmakers said they want to make it clear the procedure is covered by the law itself. Abortion remains legal in the United States currently, and the draft opinion leaked on Monday could still change.
Nevertheless, California and San Francisco lawmakers have been preparing for this moment as momentum has been moving across the country around laws aimed at cutting back access to lifesaving and affirming health care for women and LGBTQ communities. The proposal to amend California’s state constitution to protect abortions was already in motion to appear before voters in November.
“California unequivocally stands for the right to an abortion, no matter what the right-wing zealots on the Supreme Court say,” said Senator Scott Wiener, who represents San Francisco. “We will fight hard to expand abortion access, here and in other states.”
Threats to abortion access dovetail with attacks on LGBTQ rights and access to gender-affirming health care for transgender youth happening across the country, advocates said during a public meeting Tuesday with representatives from California, Colorado, New Hampshire and other states. During the meeting, Wiener and other state lawmakers announced plans to create a place of refuge in their states for trans youth and families seeking gender-affirming health care.
California’s bill, SB 107, would prohibit the enforcement of out-of-state laws restricting gender-affirming health care and prevent the release of an individual’s medical information. This would include a subpoena if an out-of-state agency authorizes criminal action against a person whose child receives gender-affirming care.
“We will not enforce these laws in our state. We will not honor subpoenas (into trans youth health care) and we will not allow law enforcement officers to enforce these laws in our states,” Wiener said.
In a tweet, Wiener said, “Justice (Samuel) Alito’s draft opinion also advocated for erasure & criminalization of LGBTQ people — overturning marriage equality & reinstating anti-sodomy laws. They’re coming for us next.”
Nearly 20 states have enacted or are considering laws to prohibit certain gender-affirming treatments for youths and penalize doctors and nurses who provide it, including hormone-related treatments that delay puberty or promote the development of masculine or feminine sex characteristics.
Decades of research, however, show that gender-affirming care can be lifesaving. A U.S. survey of transgender adults 18-36 years old found a significantly lower risk of depression and suicidal ideation among those who were treated in their youth with puberty blockers. Endocrinologists require adolescents to first undergo assessments with medical specialists prior to receiving gender-affirming medical care such as hormone treatment.
“Trans kids and their parents are under attack across the country. We here at Planned Parenthood are all too familiar with that,” said Lisa Matsubara, general counsel and vice president of policy at Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California. “Last night, we saw in print what we’ve known for a while. … States need to take these proactive actions.”
On Tuesday, 19 states including California announced policies made in direct response to policies in conservative-led states such as Alabama and Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott ordered state child welfare officials to investigate transgender kids who receive gender-affirming care and even separate those children from their parents. LGBTQ advocates say its impact could be devastating to the safety and wellness of transgender youth and their families.
San Francisco and national leaders echoed the concern online.
“There are no gay rights without reproductive freedom. A vocal minority wants to relitigate landmark cases that established fundamental human rights for women, LGBTQ people, and other marginalized groups,” Supervisor Rafael Mandelman tweeted.
“If the report is accurate, the Supreme Court is poised to inflict the greatest restriction of rights in the past 50 years — not just on women but on all Americans,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a prepared statement. “The Republican-appointed justices’ reported votes to overturn Roe v. Wade would go down as an abomination, one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history.”
San Francisco Examiner staff writer Adam Shanks contributed to this report.