California Governor Signs Law Making Abortions Cheaper and More Accessible

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill on Tuesday that will make abortions more affordable for people with private insurance plans, the first of more than a dozen bills the state’s Democratic leaders plan to pass this year in anticipation of a potential Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

The Supreme Court’s new conservative majority is debating whether to overturn Roe v. Wade, the historic 1973 decision that barred states from prohibiting abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy group that promotes abortion rights, at least 26 states are likely to outright ban abortion or severely restrict access if they do.

As a result, many women would be forced to travel to neighboring jurisdictions to have abortions, leading Democratic-led states such as California to draft and adopt additional legislation to prepare for this. Last week, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill prohibiting legal action against those who provide or obtain abortions, in response to a Texas legislation that allows anyone to sue abortion doctors and those who help them.

Oregon lawmakers allocated $15 million in their state budget to assist individuals afford abortions in the state. A similar law has been introduced in California, as part of a package of 14 initiatives aimed at extending and safeguarding abortion access in the nation’s most populous state. The proposals were prompted by a study from Newsom’s Future of Abortion Council, which was formed last year to advise him on how to respond if Roe v. Wade were to be reversed.

“We’re looking at 26 states that will enact some form of abortion ban or limitation, so the other half of the country will have to prepare for how we care for those patients,” Jodi Hicks, CEO and President of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, stated. “We’re all trying to imagine and prepare for what that impact will be.”

Abortions are already covered by health insurance providers in California. However, according to a research by the California Health Benefits Review Program, insurance frequently demand co-pays and deductibles, which may add an average of $543 to the cost of a pharmaceutical abortion and $887 to the cost of a procedural abortion.

These fees are no longer charged according to a bill signed by Newsom on Tuesday. While the measure lowers the cost of abortions, it also raises monthly premiums for patients and their employers. According to a study by the California Health Benefits Review Program, the savings from removing the fees will outweigh the increased rates.

California joins Illinois, New York, and Oregon as the fourth state to prohibit these fees, according to state Sen. Lena Gonzalez’s legislation.

“As states throughout the country try to push us backwards by curtailing basic reproductive rights,” Newsom stated, “California continues to preserve and enhance reproductive freedom for all.”

The United States Supreme Court is set to rule this summer on whether a Mississippi statute prohibiting abortions beyond 15 weeks of pregnancy should be upheld. Last year, a majority of justices said they were prepared to preserve the legislation and even overturn Roe v. Wade during a public hearing on the issue.

This case pushed state legislatures around the country to move quickly. Idaho lawmakers submitted a bill to the governor last week that would prohibit abortions beyond six weeks of pregnancy. A measure has been presented in Missouri that would make it unlawful for citizens of the state to obtain abortions in other states.

States such as California, on the other hand, are considering legislation to counteract such initiatives. They include legislation prohibiting the disclosure of abortion medical records to law enforcement or other out-of-state agencies, as well as legislation protecting patients and providers from legal responsibility. They would increase the number of abortion providers in California by allowing some nurse practitioners to conduct the operation without the supervision of a doctor and establishing a scholarship program for students studying reproductive health who agree to work in underprivileged communities.

They’d also set up funds to help individuals pay for abortions, including as rewarding clinicians who offer free treatment to low-income patients and aiding women seeking the operation in California with things like travel, accommodation, and child care.

“This legislation package is robust, bold, responsive, and inventive, and that’s precisely what we need right now,” said Amy Moy, executive director of Essential Access Health and a member of the Future of Abortion Council’s steering committee. “We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance and a compelling obligation to ensure that anybody seeking time-sensitive and possibly life-changing abortion treatment within our state’s borders is treated with decency, respect, and safety.”

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