From increased staffing to voter advocacy, Planned Parenthood California Central Coast has been preparing for the possibility abortion access could be challenged in the U.S.
So when a draft opinion from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito gutting Roe v. Wade was leaked earlier this week, rattling the nation, officials with the local Planned Parenthood organization were ready.
“We have been preparing for an opinion as devastating as this because we could see it coming,” Dr. Jenna Tosh, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood California Central Coast, told the News-Press.
The draft opinion, first published by POLITICO, said both Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (a case that came nearly 20 years after Roe) should be overruled. It argued Roe v. Wade was “egregiously wrong from the start” with “exceptionally weak” reasoning and “damning” consequences.
Draft opinions are often circulated around the court as justices engage in the deliberative process. The opinion was from February, meaning justices could have changed their vote or altered the text of a more final version to be handed down, typically expected in June.
Should the Supreme Court strike down Roe v. Wade, 26 states would ban or greatly restrict abortion through trigger clauses already in place or indications they would enact restrictions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organization.
In California, access to abortion is unlikely to change, but it could see an influx of women coming into the state for such services from places where abortion would be banned, such as nearby Arizona.
The Guttmacher Institute estimated California could see a nearly 3,000% increase in women whose nearest abortion provider would be in California.
Dr. Tosh said Planned Parenthood California Central Coast has hired more staff — including one full-time staff physician, multiple contract physicians, multiple registered nurses and advanced practice clinicians (such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants and nurse midwives) — recently to prepare for a potential influx of patients seeking services.
It has added an abortion patient navigator to the team who can address specific barriers patients might have, such as travel or childcare needs, as well.
Additional partnerships to support patients are still in the works, Dr. Tosh said, and the Central Coast organization is hiring a variety of positions.
“We’ve already increased our health center footprint and hired more staff including doctors and nurses to prepare for an influx of patients,” said Dr. Tosh. “But this is unprecedented, and the need is big. There is no question that additional support will be needed.”
Dr. Tosh said abortion bans will primarily impact people with lower incomes and minorities, arguing wealthier individuals will be able to travel out of state for services more easily.
“We know that a lot of people are waking up to the reality that rights they have considered safe are now in jeopardy, and they want to be able to help,” Dr. Tosh said. “Our message to folks who want to get involved is this: We need you. You can volunteer, you can donate — to Planned Parenthood or an abortion fund — and we need you to register to vote, and vote in every election you can, for every office.”
“This fight isn’t over — it’s just the beginning,” Dr. Tosh said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders have said they would push for a constitutional amendment to further protect abortion access in the Golden State.
“California will not stand idly by as women across America are stripped of their rights and the progress so many have fought for gets erased,” Gov. Newsom, Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said. “We will fight. California is proposing an amendment to enshrine the right to choose in our state constitution so that there is no doubt as to the right to abortion in this state.
“We know we can’t trust the Supreme Court to protect reproductive rights, so California will build a firewall around this right in our state constitution. Women will remain protected here.”