California’s volunteer networks are ready for the arrival of patients for abortion

Lee Mitchell had three abortions before Rowe v. Wade legalized it. Now she is planning to volunteer as a driver and host for women who travel to California from other states where the procedure is prohibited.

April Dembowski / KQWD


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April Dembowski / KQWD


Lee Mitchell had three abortions before Rowe v. Wade legalized it. Now she is planning to volunteer as a driver and host for women who travel to California from other states where the procedure is prohibited.

April Dembowski / KQWD

Many states have begun banning abortion after the Supreme Court overturned the ruling Rowe vs. WadeVolunteers in California are coming together to help people who want to travel in their Kingdom ministry

California’s Lee Mitchell posted a message on Facebook, with the code:

“If you’re a person who suddenly finds yourself, you have to go Camping In every other friendly state CampingJust know that I will run you with joy, support you and not talk about you Camping trip Never to anyone. “

Abortion is legal in California. But her veiled proposal focused on women in other states who may now be desperate for access to abortion services – for whatever reason. He imagined picking them up at the San Francisco airport, taking them to a local clinic for an abortion, then offering them a place to sleep on the sofa and possibly holding a hand.

She did not have such support when she moved to California for an abortion in 1970.

“I lived in Minneapolis. I looked and looked back, there was no clue,” he recalls. “So I had to pay to go to California.”

It was one of three abortions before Mitchell Rowe vs. Wade The decision was made in 1973 – one in California and two in Washington, DC. This was before birth control and sex education. Mitchell is now 75 and he can’t believe it’s happening again.

“I was just angry,” he said after Justice Alito’s draft opinion was first leaked. “All I have done is fuel myself to find ways to help others.”

California may see an increase in abortion patients

Following the court ruling, about 26 states are now planning to ban or severely restrict access to abortion. As women look to travel outside their home states to seek abortion care, California medical clinics and volunteer networks are actively preparing to welcome them. For 1.4 million people, their nearest abortion provider will now be in California. This represents an increase of about 3,000% in potential demand for California-based services

State lawmakers are working to establish a state abortion practical assistance fund that will help women meet the reasonable costs of traveling here for abortion, including transportation, housing and child care. The nonprofit group, meanwhile, is working to recruit and train volunteers like Mitchell, using their anger and activism with concrete help: a clinic ride, a safe place to stay, a landing pad.

“People are coming together and supporting such people and I’m surprised to show that,” said Tricia Gray, volunteer engagement coordinator at Access Reproductive Justice, a California-based nonprofit abortion fund.

For months, Gray’s Group has been making fielding calls from people who already need help traveling from Texas, Arizona and even New Mexico, where abortion remains legal, but where clinics are struggling to meet the needs of women traveling from Texas. This is on top of the hundreds of Californians they already help each year – there are no clinics that arrange abortions in 40% of counties in California.

Gray now has about 60 active volunteers, but is working to bring it to 250 statewide. Geographically, he is focusing on areas near Los Angeles ’main airport, LAX, which they hope will be a travel hub for patients arriving from outside the state. Demographically, he hopes to find volunteers who reflect their callers, who are largely black, people of color, and low-income.

“Marginalized communities are always forced to be responsive, and we have to be proactive in supporting our callers,” Gray says.

Tickets, babysitters, hotels make abortion expensive outside the state

With the epidemic, current volunteers are still giving rides, but Home Stay has stopped – Gray hopes they can do it safely, resuming them next month or so. For now, volunteers instead help pay for and book hotel rooms, which can cost $ 400 or $ 500, he said, depending on how long a person has to stay for the procedure.

The additional cost of a plane ticket, the loss of a babysitter and work time, the total reasonable cost of an abortion can exceed several thousand dollars. As the number of patients has increased, volunteer networks and non-profit organizations have not been able to keep up with the growing demand.

Seventeen planned parenting clinics in Northern California, for example, are expected to triple the number of patients receiving abortion care, adding about 8,000 patients each year, said Gloria Martinez, senior director of operations.

Whenever a person from outside the state makes an appointment, an abortion navigator at the clinic calls them to see if they need help traveling, Martinez said. Navigators can arrange reimbursement for some costs, but not for those who call, and only up to $ 500 for each patient.

Taxpayer money can support nonprofit efforts

The proposed abortion practical assistance fund to state legislators will help by providing grants to nonprofits such as Access Reproductive Justice or Planned Parenthood, which can then be used to help people with logistical costs, including airfare, taxis, within and outside the state. , Gas Money, Child Care, or Translation Services. These can also be used to finance staff work such as abortion navigators or volunteer coordinators such as Gray.

Local abortion activists oppose the proposal.

“We call it ‘abortion tourism,'” said Greg Burt, a Sacramento-based advocate for the California Family Council.

She says she wants the state to spend more money on childbearing without focusing on abortion.

“These incentives send a message that we value one more than the other,” Bert said.

About 80 percent of Californians say they are opposed to a reversal Rowe vs. Wade, According to a survey in October. At a San Francisco mall in June, KQED interviewed shoppers and similarly found that a large majority thought it was a good idea for the state to use their tax dollars to help women from other states come here for abortion care.

“I think it’s okay, because if a woman is raped?” Latasha Johnson said 44, referring to some other state laws that would also prohibit abortion in cases of rape or incest.

“It’s really important to set aside taxpayer money to ensure safe abortions for people,” explained Caroline Fong, 19, a college student who will return to her campus in Missouri in the fall – one of 13 states with so-called trigger laws. Abortion will be automatically banned after the Supreme Court decision.

“If we can help, we should,” said Howard Dixon, 60.

The two did not like the idea.

“We don’t agree with that,” said Joe Bacon, 44, a construction worker, speaking Spanish. “We believe in saving lives.”

His wife, Claudia Sanchez, 49, added: “There are many things that would be better than we could invest.”

The proposed fund, detailed in Senate Bill 1142, is one of 13 bills passed by the state legislature aimed at turning California into an abortion sanctuary state.

Lee Mitchell supports all of these legislation and philanthropic efforts, but he wants to be personally involved, hand-in-hand. He is excited to imagine what it would have been like at the age of 20, if only his future self or someone like him had picked him up at the airport.

“I loved it. I think I’d probably open it to that person, to 75-year-old Lee,” he says. “I don’t know if everyone is there. I will.”

Experienced advocates like Tricia Gray say that the simple act of taking someone to the clinic, chatting about traffic or ordering their Thai food can be life-changing for both the abortion care person and the volunteer.

“It’s transformative because of the simplicity,” Gray says. “It’s very revolutionary to give someone a ride and say, ‘We’re behind you. We can’t solve it all, but at least we can solve it.'”

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