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Pro-choice states rush to pledge legal shield for out-of-state abortions | Abortion

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After the explosive leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion last week revealed that the majority of justices planned to overturn Roe v. Wade, a handful of states reaffirmed and expanded their abortion care.

In recent days, a slew of bills and pronouncements have emerged in largely Democratic-led states as lawmakers and organizations scramble to prepare for the possibility of a post-Roe America.

As some states seek to become “safe havens” for out-of-state abortion seekers, other states have increased funding for abortion, expanded provider access, and offered legal protections. against lawsuits filed by citizen “bounty hunters” against those involved in the abortions.

According to research organization Guttmacher Institute, only 38% of women of childbearing age live in states that have shown support for abortion rights. In contrast, 58% live in states that have shown hostility to abortion rights. Only 4% of women live in intermediate states.

Last month, New York State Senator Liz Krueger introduced a bill that would protect New York doctors who provide abortion services to out-of-state patients by prohibiting law enforcement agencies to cooperate with outside investigations into abortion provisions.

“At this critical time, New York must ensure access to abortion for both New Yorkers and refugees from other states who are denied their basic rights,” Krueger told the Guardian.

“We must provide ironclad protection for New York’s health care providers from the abhorrent and regressive laws of other states,” she added.

Similarly, Alessandra Biaggi, another senator from New York State, introduced a bill that would create an abortion access fund and allow taxpayers to contribute to it.

“We created this bill to make sure that we not only say people have the right to an abortion, but also that they have access to it because we know that just saying the right does not mean that people can afford to do it,” Biaggi told the Guardian.

In addition to transportation costs, the fund would cover childcare, accommodation, miscellaneous medical expenses, and other logistical support.

Biaggi also introduced another bill that would offer out-of-state women who seek abortion or gender-affirming services the claim of “unlawful interference” with their rights if they end up deal with criminal or civil complaints.

In Connecticut, Governor Ned Lamont signed a bill that will protect people who provide or receive abortion services in Connecticut and are then sued in another state.

The nation’s first law, set to take effect July 1, will also improve access to abortion in Connecticut by expanding the type of practitioners eligible to perform certain abortion-related care.

“We want to make sure we have the health care infrastructure to provide not only our own residents, but also the people who are going to come here for care,” said state Rep. Matt Blumenthal, who co-sponsored The law project.

As Connecticut is poised to become one of the few safe havens in the country, lawmakers like Blumenthal are well aware of the challenges that will come with an increase in the number of out-of-state abortion seekers.

“A possible influx of out-of-state patients … is certainly a concern. We’ve already seen people come from Texas to get abortion care here in Connecticut and that was one of the reasons we wanted to expand the providers eligible to provide the care,” he said.

Blumenthal added, “We have secured significant sources of funding in our budget this year to protect reproductive health care in the state and that is very important because you know the people who will be affected by these bans in other states will be disproportionately low-income, people of color who cannot afford to travel freely.

Oregon is another state that has incorporated additional funds for abortion care into its laws. In February, the state legislature created the Reproductive Health Equity Fund which will allocate $15 million to the nonprofit Seeding Justice for expanded access to abortion.

Seeding Justice described the fund, which will help Oregon prepare for an abortion ban in neighboring Idaho, as a “unique opportunity to invest in abortion access as part of Central Oregon Health Infrastructure”.

“These funds are meant to be holistic…These funds are truly patient-focused[ting] care and expanding provider capacity,” said An Do, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon.

Do continued, “In Oregon, we know we need to strengthen our health care infrastructure…and reduce the access wilderness…so I think that’s an important place to be able to make investments.”

California has also positioned itself as a “safe haven state” for abortion rights. In January, the state legislature introduced a package of 13 bills to designate California as an abortion care sanctuary.

Pro-choice activists gather in downtown Los Angeles after the Supreme Court's draft opinion leaked.
Pro-choice activists gather in downtown Los Angeles after the Supreme Court’s draft opinion leaked. Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images
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In addition to providing greater legal privacy protections for out-of-state patients and providers, the bills seek to increase the number of providers able to perform abortion services.

A bill seeks to remove co-pays, deductibles and other cost-sharing requirements for abortions for all state-licensed health service plans that are issued after 2022. Another bill would deny out-of-state subpoenas for patient information about reproductive health services that are granted in California.

Other bills seek to protect California abortion providers by prohibiting the revocation or suspension of medical licenses for a California licensee providing abortion care who complies with state law.

In Colorado, lawmakers are also rushing to codify abortion access protections. Colorado is one of the few states that does not require a 72-hour waiting period after an abortion consultation. There are also no restrictions on when an abortion can take place during a pregnancy.

In April, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed the Reproductive Health Equity Act, officially codifying the right to abortion into state law.

According to the Colorado Department of Health, 13% of the 10,400 abortion seekers who underwent the procedure in Colorado in 2020 were from out of state. As at least three of Colorado’s immediate neighbors are certain or likely to ban abortion if Roe v Wade is overturned, the state braces for an increase in out-of-state abortion seekers, which could push Colorado residents to seek treatment.

Greer Donley, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh who specializes in reproductive health care, told the Guardian: ‘People will feel the effects of Roe’s cancellation, even if their state continues to allow abortion’ .

“The primary way they will see these effects is through wait times…If half the states ban all or most abortions in the next few months, then clinics in blue states will be inundated with patients coming from out of state,” she said. .

As a result, Colorado clinics have pledged to do all they can to expand access to abortion providers as they battle worker shortages, long wait times and post-abortion complications.

“Capacity is essential. We know clinics in access states schedule patients in weeks rather than days and they have added more exam rooms by consolidating offices and waiting areas. And opening new facilities is difficult, as is finding staff, because we’re in short supply of healthcare workers,” said Elizabeth Nash, a state policy expert at the Guttmacher Institute.

“For patients, it is essential to help them pay for abortion and abortion-related travel,” she added.

In Maryland, lawmakers passed a bill last month that allows medical professionals other than doctors to perform abortions. The law will allow nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and trained physician assistants to perform the procedure.

In addition, the law will require the state to invest $3.5 million annually in abortion care training and require the majority of state insurers to cover abortion costs.

Last month, Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to strike down the state’s 1931 law that criminalizes abortions unless performed to protect life. a woman’s.

The lawsuit also seeks to establish the right to abortion in the state constitution.

Despite the various steps that progressive states have taken to expand access to abortion, some still have certain restrictions in place that need to be removed to ensure that abortion care is fully accessible.

Aside from capacity issues, another important restriction is cost. “States need to look at how they help people pay for abortions because we know most patients pay out of pocket for their abortions,” Nash said.

With at least 26 states poised, likely or certain to ban abortion if Roe v Wade is overturned, the fight for abortion rights is more urgent than ever.

“I can’t stress how seismic this is,” An Do said. “We have never lost a constitutional right. This is just the beginning… They [the justices] stripped us all of the constitution. The next step is marriage equality, the next step is access to birth control for so many people.

“We cannot be apathetic and we cannot lose ourselves in despair. We have to fight tooth and nail. »

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