NEW YORK – California and New York Catholic conference leaders are emphasizing the need for pro-life advocates to double their efforts in advocacy for abortion-alternatives and walking with pregnant women after state politicians announced plans to expand abortion access.
The announcements came this week after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week of a case on a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks or pregnancy, where it could overturn Roe v. Wade – the 1973 decision that declared a nationwide right to abortion – and put abortion laws in the hands of state legislatures.
If that were to happen there would be a mixed bag of states widening or restricting abortion access, though a decision from the Supreme Court isn’t expected until next year.
Nonetheless, political leaders in California, in conjunction with pro-abortion organizations, released a proposal of 45 policy recommendations for the state to consider. These include: Funding the procedure for women that come to California for abortion services, increased funding for abortion providers, and dozens of measures to make it easier for clients to access abortion.
“It just seems like there is this frantic need to kind of pull out all of the stops to just make abortion the only possible answer and it’s really terrible,” said Kathleen Domingo, the California Catholic Conference executive director, about the report.
“It really offers no help,” she continued. “It says, ‘women, what you want, what you need, is an abortion no matter what else is going on in your life and it’s the one thing that we can offer you that will solve all of your problems.’ That’s terrifying.”
The proposal was prepared by the office of Toni G. Atkins, the head of California’s Senate in partnership with the Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, the National Health Law Program, Essential Access Help, and others that make up the umbrella group the California Future of Abortion Council.
Atkins states in a letter within the proposal that the California Legislature “knows that access to services is key,” which is why it continues to expand reproductive rights and access to services, adding that it will “remain steadfast in that commitment.”
The conclusion of the proposal argues its recommendations are necessary “for preparing the state to serve potentially millions more people seeking abortion care as other states prepare extreme bans to an essential health service.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom supports the recommendations as well. He told The Associated Press last week that the state will be a “sanctuary” for women seeking abortions, noting that the state’s lawmakers are already looking at ways to expand protections and support the “inevitability” that patients will likely travel to California from other states.
Newsom also said some of the details of the California Future of Abortion Council report will be included in his budget proposal in January.
Domingo told Crux it’s “sad” that “this is the very best thing we can think of to do for women in our state and surrounding states” with an expected $31 million budget surplus.
“Women choose abortions for financial reasons most of the time and you’ve got this enormous state budget, and yet there’s no discussion whatsoever about increasing paid family leave, helping with housing insecurity for pregnant women and families, helping with job security, helping with down payments on a house,” Domingo said. “There are so many things we could do to help women and families and we’re just not doing them. We’re only offering abortion.”
The state is so extreme in its abortion views, Domingo added, that the best, most effective thing the pro-life community can do now is “double down” on its advocacy efforts. Particularly for the state’s pro-life pregnancy clinics, and state and local resources for alternative options.
“That’s one of the best things we can do right now is advocate for those resources and really unite ourselves as a group of caring people in California who will accompany women, not just offer resources and walk away but actually be with these women throughout their pregnancy and beyond,” Domingo said.
California is one of the nation’s leading abortion providers. The state doesn’t track or report abortion statistics, but the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion research group, reported that there were 132,680 abortions in California in 2017.
Not far behind that total in 2017, according to the Guttmacher Institute, was New York, where 105,380 abortions occurred. Earlier this week, New York’s Attorney General Letitia James said she wants to create a state fund to pay for abortions sought by women who live elsewhere.
“While we remain committed to fighting Mississippi’s unconstitutional abortion ban, we must be ready to support women in Mississippi and a host of other states if this dangerous law is upheld,” James said in a press release earlier this month.
She wants the fund to cover the cost of the abortion, as well as travel and lodging costs for women that have to travel to another state to get the procedure if Roe v. Wade is overturned and their home state limits access.
Kathleen Gallagher, the New York Catholic Conference director of pro-life activities, told Crux that James idea is “absurd,” claiming that politicians in New York and California “are just trying to use abortion as a political football.”
Case in point, Gallagher said, is the fact that James – who suddenly dropped her New York governor bid on Dec. 9 – didn’t include any details of how much the fund would cost, or how it would work in her announcement.
Regardless of if there’s a fund or not, Gallagher too said advocacy is the way forward.
“I’ve spent my entire career in New York working for pro-life policy changes, but at the end of the day what matters so much more is changing hearts and changing minds and helping women who are faced with this agonizing decision,” Gallagher told Crux. “One by one we have to change hearts and help women one at a time.”
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg