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Commentary: This is what the end of Roe looks like in Southern California 

Demonstrators join Planned Parenthood's "Bans Off Abortion" rally at Centennial Regional Park in Santa Ana on May 14.
(Raul Roa)

The U.S. Supreme Court’s official decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade and take away abortion rights at the federal level is an outrage. Decades of progress for the health of pregnant people and financial independence of mothers has just been undone. Abortion will remain legal in California, but we are already seeing what a world without Roe looks like.

While we are fortunate that California lawmakers are committed to expanding abortion rights, at least 26 states, including Arizona, Idaho, Texas, Mississippi, Ohio and Oklahoma have now cruelly restricted or outright banned abortion. This will force millions of people to travel thousands of miles to states like California for abortion care. Millions more who can’t afford travel, time off work or childcare will be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term.

At Planned Parenthood of Orange & San Bernardino Counties, we are here to provide the best care possible for patients who come to us from out of state — but the situation on the ground is dire, and we need additional support.

24-hour journey for a five-minute procedure

Before September 2021, when Texas issued a barbaric near-total ban on abortion, I would see one patient per week from outside of California. That number quadrupled to four per week afterward. Now that Roe has been overturned, I estimate we will see more than 40 out-of-state patients every week — 40 times the number we saw previously.

In the last several months, I have treated many out-of-state patients. This is who they are.

One is a 26-year-old mother of two, who drove 12 hours overnight from her home in El Paso, Texas, sleeping in a gas station parking lot along the way. She got her abortion and then immediately drove back another 12 hours to her family.

A Costa Mesa woman recounts her experience as a young mother in Orange County who sought an abortion before Roe vs. Wade.

One is a 37-year-old mother of three who had never been on a plane in her life. We helped her get a hotel room overnight and a ride to her abortion appointment the next day. Because she had to fly home immediately after the procedure, she decided to forego sedation because she was worried about traveling alone after being sedated.

One is a 26-year-old person from North Carolina who knew they could not carry their pregnancy to term when a 20-week scan showed serious fetal anomalies. It was a heart-wrenching decision for them to terminate the pregnancy, made all the more difficult by the fact that they needed to fly across the country in order to obtain an abortion.

An abortion, on average, takes five to 10 minutes to complete or involves taking a few pills, and is far less medically risky for many than carrying a pregnancy to term. But now, the Supreme Court has forced millions of people like these patients to travel thousands of miles for this simple procedure, which is safer than getting a wisdom tooth pulled.

How to help

There are a number of ways you can step up and help us fight for every person’s right to get an abortion.

One is to donate. Right now, we need our supporters’ help to ensure that we do not turn away any Californian or out-of-state patient because our health centers are overwhelmed. At this time, supporters are encouraged to donate directly to Planned Parenthood of Orange & San Bernardino Counties at www.pposbc.org/give to help us pay for plane tickets, accommodation, rides, gas and other travel expenses for patients that need travel assistance.

One is to vote. Pay attention to elections of every scale, from your local school board to your members of Congress. We need to keep pro-choice politicians in office so California remains a reproductive freedom state that can influence legislation at the federal level to protect abortion rights for everyone.

Hundreds turned up at Main Beach in Laguna Beach to protest the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe vs. Wade on Friday.

One is to show up when it matters. At our “Bans Off Abortion” rally in May at Santa Ana’s Centennial Park, more than 4,000 of our supporters showed up. Their presence demonstrated to lawmakers both here and nationwide that we support abortion rights. Make your voice heard. Learn more about other ways to show up and by visiting our Community Action Fund website.

When faced with bans, patients will do whatever it takes to get a safe, legal abortion. Planned Parenthood of Orange & San Bernardino Counties will do whatever it takes to care for them and protect their right to getting one.

Dr. Janet Jacobson is the medical director of Planned Parenthood of Orange & San Bernardino Counties. She resides in the city of Orange.

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