What California is doing to protect abortion rights after Roe vs. Wade reversal

Protesters gather in Grand Park during a rally against the Supreme Court decision overturning abortion rights.
(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

With Roe vs. Wade now dead, liberal California finds itself more than ever as the vanguard for abortion rights.

Red states are now pushing to end abortions immediately, while California is encouraging women to come here to have the procedures.

California’s leadership on abortion rights dates back to the 1970s, when then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, a conservative Republican, signed the nation’s most liberal abortion law.

The state legalized abortion in 1967, years before the Roe vs. Wade decision, and those protections have since been expanded by the Legislature and governor, the California Supreme Court and a 1972 voter-approved state constitutional amendment protecting privacy rights. Those protections include funding for abortions provided to low-income women covered by the Medi-Cal program and the right for minors to obtain an abortion without parental consent.

The state has become more liberal and Democratic since. And over the last few years, California has moved to be a leader in providing access for abortions.


Hours after the Supreme Court ruled, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Friday that immediately protects abortion providers in California from liability when caring for patients traveling from areas where the procedure is now banned or access is narrowed. Assembly Bill 1666 will protect providers and patients in California from civil liability judgments based on claims made in antiabortion states.

California’s governor clearly embraces his rise as a dominant, resonating voice for Democratic states nationwide

California has been preparing for months for the likelihood that thousands of people would travel to the state from areas of the country where bans are resurrected. UCLA’s Center on Reproductive Health, Law and Policy released a report this month estimating that 8,000 to 16,000 more people will travel to California each year for abortion care. That includes up to 9,400 more people from antiabortion states seeking care in Los Angeles County alone, according to the report.

Newsom on Friday joined Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in announcing the creation of a “West Coast offensive” to protect access to reproductive care. The plan includes continued safeguards for out-of-state patients, defense of medical professionals who provide abortion services and efforts to prevent misinformation and expand access to care, the governors said.

“The West Coast of the United States is going to stand strong,” they said. “We will fight like hell to protect your rights and your safety.”

Newsom added: “I want folks to know around the rest of the country, many parts of the globe, that I hope we’re your antidote to your fear, or anxiety, perhaps to the cynicism that many of you are feeling about the fate and future.”

Here is a breakdown of what California is doing:

States will now be permitted to ban abortions for the first time since the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973. What does this mean in California?

Enshrining abortion, contraceptive rights in state Constitution

The proposal would not expand California’s already progressive reproductive healthcare laws that ensure a woman’s right to abortion and birth control, including the rights of minors to access services without parental notification or consent. The Senate and Assembly are expected to take it up this week.

California legislative leaders introduced a bill Wednesday that would ask voters to enshrine abortion and contraceptive rights in the state Constitution.

California’s Constitution includes broad rights of privacy but has no explicit protection for abortion services.

California lawmakers consider a dozen bills that will help prepare the state to be a haven for people seeking abortions.

The nation’s abortion provider in a post-Roe world

The state has been preparing for an influx from areas of the country where bans will be resurrected for the first time since 1973, with various bills and budget proposals calling for millions of dollars to be set aside for abortion services for the uninsured, workforce programs to increase providers and to assist patients traveling from other states.

While other states restrict abortion and the Supreme Court weighs Roe vs. Wade, California is preparing to serve the country’s abortion patients.

The law eliminates co-pay and deductible fees for abortions, as California lawmakers prepare for a potential overturning of Roe vs. Wade.

The subsidies are included in a $125-million abortion services plan Newsom will send to legislators on Friday as part of his revised state budget.

Defiant state leaders stood ready Tuesday to protect residents and nonresidents alike from any federal rollbacks of abortion rights.

The bill is one of several introduced this year by California Democrats as countermeasures to restrictive abortion laws passed in other states.

With a wave of conservative states enacting tough new limits on abortions, Gov.

California lawmakers are debating a bill to eliminate out-of-pocket costs that proponents say often prevent people from obtaining abortions.

The state has made its position on abortion clear: California wants to be a safe haven for reproductive rights. But will the state be able to fulfill that role?

Center of a new political movement

There are clear political dynamics to California officials’ decision to embrace abortion rights. Here is how that is playing out.

Fifty-five years ago this month, California enacted the nation’s most liberal abortion law. Back then, more legislators used to think for themselves, columnist George Skelton writes.

The threat to Roe vs. Wade enables Gov. Gavin Newsom to pivot to a familiar campaign strategy: focusing on what’s perceived as a conservative threat.

Constituents overwhelmingly say the prelate was wrong to deny Holy Communion to the House speaker.

A California constitutional amendment could turn almost every California election into a referendum on abortion in November.

How much the Republican Party is hurt won’t be known until the November election, but it will be hurt, columnist George Skelton writes.

The Supreme Court and the Lone Star State inadvertently provided a clear shot for California to fire away at gun manufacturers and dealers, columnist George Skelton says.

Hundreds of protesters gathered Saturday in downtown L.A. to denounce the Supreme Court’s decision to end a constitutional right to abortion.

While Roe is grabbing headlines, the far right is marching forward with a plan to remake America. California is everything it hopes to destroy.