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How the state of abortion could change in California with a new governor

Demonstrators hold signs protesting abortion restrictions in 2019.
Demonstrators hold signs protesting abortion restrictions in 2019.
(Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, Sept. 2. I’m Justin Ray.

The topic of abortion has been discussed a lot recently because of a law in Texas that took effect Wednesday.

The controversial legislation limits the availability of abortions after six weeks of pregnancy — in defiance of Roe vs. Wade. The law would bar care for at least 85% of Texas abortion patients, Planned Parenthood said in a request for an emergency appeal. The Supreme Court allowed the law to stay in place in a 5-4 vote early Thursday.

California’s recall election has also brought abortion to the fore. Newsom, a Democrat, has tweeted that “abortion access” is at stake. Larry Elder, the GOP’s leading contender in most polls, has been more outspoken on the issue than other candidates within his party. And he has called abortion “murder” and Roe vs. Wade “one of the worst decisions that the Supreme Court ever handed down.”

Realistically, it would be difficult for a new governor to make major changes in the state. California has some of the strongest abortion protections in the country. With only a little over a year remaining in the governor’s term, opposition from an overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature, and the right to abortion enshrined in the state Constitution, new restrictions would seem a hard sell.

But this doesn’t mean they would be impossible.

How a new governor could still affect abortion in California

Abortion-rights advocates argue that having a legal right doesn’t always guarantee access to treatment. They outline three ways that an anti-abortion governor could block the path of a woman attempting to end a pregnancy:

  • Vetoing bills or budget items that help make abortion more accessible: State Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) introduced a bill this year to eliminate cost-sharing for abortions for Medi-Cal patients. She said that she would have still pushed the measure under an anti-abortion administration, but that it would become an “uphill battle” on every front.
  • There’s always bureaucracy. Democrats, who have a supermajority in both houses of the Legislature, can override a governor’s veto. But that veto can still stymie legislation. Or the governor could make the process of getting paid by Medi-Cal so difficult that providers wouldn’t bother. “Abortion is already a time-sensitive service,” one expert said.
  • Interrupting an FDA ruling. At the end of the year, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to rule on whether a prescription drug used in medication abortions, which is currently available over the counter because of COVID-19, will revert to prescription-only status. If the FDA says yes, the state would need to update its Medi-Cal provider manual. A new governor could hire a director at the Department of Health Care Services who wouldn’t update the manual.

Further reading:

  • With the recall election less than two weeks away, more than twice as many Democrats as Republicans have voted by mail and the liberal areas of the state such as the Bay Area have the highest rates of ballot returns. The early numbers are good news for Gov. Gavin Newsom. But they also show his weaknesses and what his campaign must do between now and election day on Sept. 14: turn out young and Latino voters.
  • Racial discrimination. Policing. Fires. Where do candidates stand when it comes to hot-button political issues? Some have been more forthcoming about their ideas than others. Here’s a rundown on views expressed by those looking to oust Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Hey, Los Angeles voters: You can make your voice heard as early as this weekend. Centers will be open starting Saturday, Sept. 4, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Find a vote center near you.

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And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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‘We were kind of scratching our heads’: California student aid official Patrick Perry was beginning a routine check of federal financial aid records a few weeks ago when he came across a mystifying number: 60,000 more aid applications from a particular group of students this year than last. He alerted California Community Colleges officials. They put their heads together and uncovered what is believed to be one of the state’s biggest financial aid scam attempts in recent history. Los Angeles Times

California Community Colleges officials declined to say whether any financial aid was disbursed to fake students.
(AFP/Getty Images)

L.A. STORIES

Couple convicted in $18-million pandemic relief fraud flee and are fugitives, FBI says. A Tarzana couple is on the run from federal authorities after they sliced off their monitoring bracelets and fled while awaiting sentencing for the theft of millions of dollars in coronavirus pandemic relief funds, the FBI said late Tuesday. Richard Ayvazyan, 43, and Marietta Terabelian, 37, were convicted in June of conspiring with family members to fraudulently secure at least $18 million in emergency relief money. Los Angeles Times

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Gov. Newsom signed legislation that allows college student athletes to profit from their names, images and likenesses. California’s Fair Pay to Play Act was passed in 2019; Newsom’s recent act accelerated the implementation of the legislation. In a 2019 letter to the chairs of two state Assembly committees, NCAA President Mark Emmert said it threatened “to alter materially the principles of intercollegiate athletics and create local differences that would make it impossible to host fair national championships.” Governor’s Office

‘The algorithm fired me, and other workers like me, though we were working as hard as we could.’ An Assembly bill is expected to reach the Senate floor this week or next to crack down on the opaque, algorithm-led and harsh warehouse work conditions often attributed to Seattle technology behemoth Amazon. The bill, the first such legislation in the nation, would require warehouses to disclose quotas and work speed metrics to employees and government agencies. Race is part of the debate over AB 701. Latino and Black employees constitute 66% of warehouse staff, although workers of color account for just 37% of the total U.S. labor force, according to a UC Berkeley study. Los Angeles Times

CRIME AND COURTS

LAPD seeks man who sneaked into UCLA student’s apartment and sexually assaulted her. Los Angeles police have released a sketch of a man who sexually assaulted a UCLA student in her apartment last week, saying they fear he will strike again. The man, who has a closely cropped beard in the sketch, entered the apartment near the UCLA campus about 4 a.m. Friday. He groped the victim as she slept, fleeing after she awoke and confronted him, West Bureau Deputy Chief Blake Chow said at a news conference Wednesday. Los Angeles Times

A Black couple sued the city of Beverly Hills, alleging their arrests were part of a campaign by its police to arrest Black people for trivial reasons and at disproportionate rates. The couple’s lawyers, Bradley Gage and Benjamin Crump, said the police last year set up a task force — dubbed “Operation Safe Streets” and the “Rodeo Drive Task Force” — that arrested 106 people, 105 of whom were Black. The remaining person was Latino. Gage said the sources of the arrest figures were unidentified retired officers who were appalled with the task force’s actions. In a statement, Police Chief Dominick Rivetti said his department created a “Rodeo Drive Team” in response to a rise in burglaries and shoplifting. Los Angeles Times

Beverly Hills Police Chief Dominick Rivetti at City Hall in 2021.
Beverly Hills Police Chief Dominick Rivetti at City Hall this year.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Caldor fire blows past 200,000 acres as it moves toward Nevada; crews grow fatigued. Wildfire crews faced yet another grueling day Wednesday as the massive Caldor fire blew past 200,000 acres and continued its steady march east toward Nevada. The head of the fire is now approaching the California-Nevada state line, spurring concerns both states would soon be involved. Strong winds are a major concern for firefighters, as they can send embers aloft and ignite spot fires as far as a mile away, officials said. Los Angeles Times

A mob of wild boars — sometimes called feral pigs — invaded an East Bay city. The boars were seen in Mount Diablo foothills searching for food and drink. They ripped up at least one manicured front lawn in San Ramon. Despite the outbreak of wild swine activity, neither police nor animal control officials were called, authorities said. Ken Paglia, a spokesperson for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the issue of wild boars tends to arise about once a year, usually in the media. San Francisco Chronicle

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Amazon.com Inc. has a solution for a potentially crippling shortage of delivery drivers: Recruit pot smokers. The company is advising its delivery partners — the mom-and-pops that operate the ubiquitous blue Amazon vans — to prominently advertise that they don’t screen applicants for marijuana use, according to correspondence reviewed by Bloomberg and interviews with four business owners. Doing so could boost the number of job applicants by as much as 400%, Amazon says in one message, without explaining how it came up with the estimate. Los Angeles Times

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at latimes.com/games.

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: Go for a jog! 78. San Diego: Get frozen yogurt after a jog! 75. San Francisco: 67. San Jose: 75. Fresno: Get a burrito and inject hot sauce into it with this insane device. 92. Sacramento: 84.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory is from Vicki Robinson:

In 1956 I was 11 and we lived in Northridge. My family’s favorite thing to do was to go to the movies. My fondest memory was going to a major studio preview of “Written on the Wind” in Van Nuys. Sitting several rows behind me was Rock Hudson, my young girl’s heartthrob at the time. As soon as the movie was over I quickly went to the foyer and stood next to him. He was very tall and handsome. Those were the days when ordinary people could go to movie previews.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.


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