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Draft opinion on Roe vs. Wade sparks backlash in California

California officials and abortion providers spoke out Monday night against a purported draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion that was leaked to Politico and seemed to signal that the nation’s highest court is poised to overturn Roe vs. Wade — a move that would allow states to outlaw abortion.

It is highly unusual for the high court to overturn a landmark decision and equally extraordinary, or perhaps more so, for a draft opinion to leak out in advance of its final release.

In a statement, Gov. Gavin Newsom called the draft opinion “an appalling attack on the rights of women” across the country.

“If it stands, it will destroy lives and put countless women in danger,” Newsom said. “It will be the end of fundamental constitutional rights that American women have had for nearly 50 years.”

The governor said the draft opinion was not the end.

“We have a Supreme Court that does not value the rights of women, and a political minority that will stop at nothing to take those rights away,” Newsom said in the statement. “This won’t stop with choice and the right to privacy. They are undermining progress, and erasing the civil protections and rights so many have fought for over the last half century.”

U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) called the freedom to choose a fundamental right.

“Now is the time to take the decisive action that a majority of Americans want to see,” he said in a tweet Monday night. “We must pass legislation to protect safe and legal access to abortion.”

Sue Dunlap, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, told The Times she felt it’s important for people to remember that the leaked document is a draft opinion.

Nonetheless, access to abortion has long been complicated at best, Dunlap said.

“We know that in states like Texas, women don’t have access to that federal right,” she said. “If you’re a patient or a woman or a family and you’re looking for care, all of this news just made it more confusing and, undoubtedly, even more terrifying for women who are considering abortion or the future of their families.”

Dunlap urged the public to turn any shock or anger they feel at the news into action.

“Anger matters right now,” she said. “Someone very brave at the Supreme Court just undid 200 years of precedent. An opinion has never been leaked before.”

Planned Parenthood Los Angeles has been preparing for a future where the right to abortion is not federal law, she said.

“California has long been a haven for people who can’t find freedom in their own communities,” Dunlap said. “One way that I see that in my day-to-day work is the women who travel here for abortion. We saw a pretty dramatic increase in those numbers in the early days of the Trump presidency. With the news around Texas, those numbers also increased.”

In California as a whole, and Los Angeles County specifically, policymakers have set up safeguards to help ensure all people have access to healthcare, including abortion, she said.

“As one of the largest abortion providers in California, Planned Parenthood Los Angeles has been dreading this moment and preparing for it,” Dunlap said. “I have every expectation we’ll see more people coming to us. We’ve been working with hospitals, with local law schools. UCLA put in place its [Center on Reproductive Health, Law & Policy] at its law school. We’ve been working to solidify all the pieces that our community will need in this future.”

Monday night’s news didn’t come as a surprise to Holly Mitchell, chair of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.

“We have heard from this court for quite some time that this is the direction they were going,” Mitchell said. “It was still a punch in the gut for the court to reverse a ruling that fundamentally protects individual rights.”

The supervisor called Monday “a sad, sad day for all of us.”

The leak of the draft opinion comes amid efforts by Mitchell and other L.A. County officials to protect and bolster access to abortion and reproductive services in the county, should Roe be overturned.

In late January, a motion by Mitchell and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl to develop a plan for Los Angeles to become a “Haven County” where people from states with more restrictive policies could seek reproductive services passed unanimously.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors is set to vote on a motion, also introduced by Mitchell and Kuehl, to support California Senate Bill 1245, which would establish an Abortion Access Safe Haven Pilot Program in the county, according to the meeting agenda.

Jodi Hicks, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, called the ruling “the nightmare scenario” that those who work in reproductive health, rights and justice have been warning about.

“If this opinion truly is reflective of the final decision of the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court justices, then even if abortion remains legal today, we are just days away from more than 26 states banning access to abortion services, essential and safe healthcare that has been a constitutional right for nearly 50 years,” Hicks said. “To Californians, and people who may seek care here due to hostile bans in their home state, know this: Planned Parenthood health centers across California will remain open.”

U.S. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), also spoke out following the news.

“There are no words. To adequately describe a draft SCOTUS opinion outlawing the right to choose,” he said in a tweet. “It’s devastating for the millions of women who will lose the right to make their health care decisions, thanks to a partisan court. Congress must pass abortion protections. Now.”

Federal abortion protections are popular in California. A July 2021 survey from the Public Policy Institute of California showed that 77% of adult Californians did not want Roe vs. Wade overturned, with 61% of adults concerned that some states were making it “too difficult to get an abortion.”

The survey found that “strong majorities” consistently opposed overturning Roe since the question was first posed in 2005, according to the researchers.

It also found that majorities across regions, and demographic and partisan groups — including 59% of Republicans — didn’t want the ruling overturned.

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