California considers helping to pay for abortions for those who can't afford them

Legislation would establish a state fund to provide grant money to nonprofit organizations that assist low-income pregnant individuals or people with financial barriers with accessing abortions.

Updated: March 18, 2022 - 10:48pm

California could spend state funds to assist low-income Californians and out-of-state residents in gaining access to abortions under a new proposal introduced by state lawmakers this week.

Senate Bill 1142, introduced by Sens. Nancy Skinner and Anna Caballero on Thursday, would establish a fund in the State Treasury to provide grant money to nonprofit organizations that assist low-income pregnant individuals or people with financial barriers with accessing abortion services. The fund would be composed of state and philanthropic dollars, according to Skinner.

The annual cost to the state would be up to the legislature to appropriate.

Supporters said the measure would help increase access to abortions in California for women when multiple states are passing laws to increase abortion restrictions.

The Supreme Court in September declined to block a Texas abortion law that bars abortions after a heartbeat is detected – typically around six weeks of pregnancy. That contrasts with Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that legalized abortion before viability, or around 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Additionally, the high court is set to rule on a Mississippi law that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Advocates and lawmakers say that could effectively overturn Roe v. Wade and estimate that if this law is upheld, more than two dozen states are likely to pass similar abortion restrictions, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority seems poised to do the unthinkable. If the court overturns 50 years of settled law and takes away a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, California will not stand idly by,” Skinner, who is vice chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, said in a statement.

“With SB 1142, California sends a clear message to the rest of the nation: We are fully committed to ensuring that California women and those who may seek refuge here have access to all reproductive services, including abortion.”

The bill would also create a website through the state’s Health and Human Services Agency where the public can access information about abortion services in California.

The legislation is part of a package of bills to expand abortion access, which members of the Legislative Women’s Caucus announced in January. It also stems from a report released by the California Future of Abortion Council in December, which recommended, among other things, that California reimburse abortion providers for services provided to individuals who have no other means of paying for care.

Jodi Hicks, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, a sponsor of the bill, said that the legislation would help “break down barriers” related to access to abortion and provide resources for out-of-state patients that could otherwise lose access.

“Planned Parenthood is proud to support SB 1142 because health center doors are open for any patient who needs services, and we want to ensure those patients are supported throughout the process and can easily access the information they need, when they need it,” Hicks said.

The bill has been assigned to the Senate Health Committee and is expected to be heard in the coming weeks, according to Skinner’s office.

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