California budget does not cover out-of-state travel costs for abortion seekers – National

While Governor Gavin Newsom has promised to make California a haven for women seeking abortions, his administration will not spend public money to help people from other states travel to California for the procedure.

Newsom’s decision, included in a budget deal reached this weekend, surprised abortion advocates who have been working with the governor for nearly a year to prepare for a potential wave of patients from other states coming to California for abortions now that the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

California’s operating budget, to be voted into the state legislature on Wednesday, includes $20 million for an “Abortion Practical Support Fund” to pay for things like airfare, shelter, gas and meals for people seeking abortions in California. But the money can only be used to help people who already live in California, not people traveling from other states. The fund accepts private donations, but it’s unclear whether that money can cover travel expenses outside of the state.

Read more:

Roe v. Wade: Biden admin vows action against states that risk women’s lives by denying abortion

A spokesman for Newsom’s office said the governor chose to focus on strengthening and expanding existing abortion services in California. Speaking at a news conference Friday, Newsom noted that the budget includes tens of millions of dollars to support the state’s abortion clinics. Funding, he said, could free up their budget so they can use their own money to help women travel to California.

“We are realistic. You’re going to ask, “Are we going to pay for everyone’s travel and lodging for 33 million people, 10% of whom may be seeking care in California?” Come on. We have to be realistic about what we can absorb,” Newsom said. “It is not just the government that provides and supports. It belongs to all of us. It’s you, it’s me, everyone contributes.”

California’s budget includes $40 million to cover abortions for women who can’t afford them, including women from other states traveling to California. But Jessica Pinckney, executive director of Access Reproductive Justice, a California nonprofit that helps women pay for the logistics of an abortion, said travel is often one of the biggest barriers to women seeking reproductive care.

“Incorporating travel abroad is imperative to reduce barriers and burdens for those coming from hostile states,” she said.

Click to play video: ''It's going to get worse very soon': abortion will soon be banned in Tennessee'

‘It’s going to get worse very soon’: abortion will soon be banned in Tennessee

‘It’s going to get worse very soon’: abortion will soon be banned in Tennessee

Traveling within California is also important, she said, because 40% of the state’s 58 counties have no abortion clinics, accounting for 3% of California’s female population. Many of them have a low income.

“There is definitely an advantage to having financial aid for travel in the state for Californians,” she said. “But the out-of-state piece really touches the people affected by Roe’s fall.”

While the state legislature is likely to approve the state budget on Wednesday, lawmakers can make changes to it later. With the current budget proposal, the Abortion Practical Support Fund can also accept private donations. The office of Democratic state Senator Nancy Skinner said they would try to clarify that the private money could at least be used to cover out-of-state travel expenses.

Read more:

Safe Harbor Says: Where Is Abortion Legal Now That Roe v. Wade Has Been Overturned?

But Pinckney said she and other advocates will ask lawmakers for an amendment to let public money also cover out-of-state travel costs.

Pinckney’s nonprofit Access Reproductive Justice normally raises between $3,000 and $8,000 per month. Pinckney said they have raised about $100,000 in the five days since the Supreme Court ruling.

Yet last year they helped about 500 people. So far this year their numbers have doubled every month compared to last year. Pinckney said she wouldn’t be surprised if they end up helping 2,000 or more people.

“We need public funding to encourage private financiers to contribute,” she said.

© 2022 The Canadian Press