Will California become an abortion hub? How a Supreme Court decision could affect the state

Gillian Brassil, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court could alter abortion laws nationally when it hears a challenge to Mississippi’s law to restrict access after 15 weeks of pregnancy on Dec. 1.

If the court sides with Mississippi to gut abortion protections set forth by its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, states could ban the procedure to end pregnancy. Mississippi’s 2018 law was blocked by a judge before it could go into effect.

Roe v. Wade and the 1992-case Planned Parenthood v. Casey affirmed that states could regulate, but not bar, abortions before fetal viability. Viability is when a fetus could likely survive outside of the womb, usually around 24 weeks of pregnancy.

California law allows people to have an abortion before a fetus reaches viability without restriction. After that, an individual can have an abortion if they and their doctor feel their health or life is in danger. California’s constitution protects the right to privacy, including over a person’s decision to have an abortion. More reproductive privacy protections have been added since.

People in California seeking abortions would still be able to get them if the Supreme Court, which will likely release its decision on the Mississippi case in June, overturns Roe v. Wade.

That has led experts to predict that California would become a popular abortion destination if other states were to ban them.


Lisa Matsubara, general counsel and vice president of policy at Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said it is very possible that the conservative-leaning court voids Roe v. Wade. The court allowed Texas to effectively ban abortions once cardiac activity is detectable, usually around six weeks, while it considers the law’s constitutionality.

Matsubara said that even if the court upholds Roe v. Wade this summer, some states plan to implement laws that mirror Texas’ law, which deputizes citizens to file lawsuits against people or places offering abortions after that six-week mark.

By putting citizens rather than law enforcement in charge of reporting abortions, the law takes enforcement of the six-week ban out of the hands of the state. The threat of a lawsuit might dissuade anyone aiding someone in seeking an abortion from doing so. Arkansas, Florida and South Dakota are among some of the states where Republican officials have suggested they might try to mimic the law.

Many of the states considering stricter abortion laws already restrict access to contraception and to gender-affirming health care for LGBTQ individuals, Matsubara said.


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