• Senate Bill 1245, now on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk for his signature or veto, will give Los Angeles County $20 million to support access to a pilot abortion program

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, Los Angeles County has set out to become a safe haven for access to abortion and reproductive health services, regardless of immigration status.

During the “Los Angeles County Safe Haven Reproductive Health Services” video conference hosted by Ethnic Media Services, various experts on the subject discussed Los Angeles County’s efforts to be a safe space where people can access reproductive health services. services and how nonprofit community organizations work to safeguard reproductive rights.

Supervisor Holly Mitchell, president of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, said it is her duty to not only protect but provide quality services for the reproductive well-being of all women, particularly African American and Latina women.

“That’s why it’s important that Los Angeles County be a safe haven for women seeking abortion services.”

Chanel Smith, director of the Los Angeles County Women and Girls Initiative, said that regardless of race, country of origin, religion, immigration status or language, abortion services are legal and available anywhere. county

“With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, every woman in America fears for her right to make decisions about her own body, but we are here to report that in Los Angeles County, they can have access to reproductive care, including abortion services.

Dr. Susie Baldwin, medical director of the Office of Women’s Health at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said there is still a lot of stigma and fear around abortion in particular, even among professionals.

“The truth is that abortion is very safe and very common; And now we plan to expand our workforce to serve reproductive health in the county and for those coming from other states, where miscarriage treatment is now prohibited or illegal.”

So, she said, they need to build a team with nursing assistants, lab technicians, nurses and doctors that will support the care of all the people here and those who may come in the future.

“The Board of Supervisors also asked us to work to reduce health disparities. We want everyone in our county and those who visit us for health care to be able to access the services they need in a timely manner, regardless of where they were born and how long they have been in this country.”

She noted that in the context of health disparities, the Board of Supervisors asked them to consider the needs of certain populations of women who are particularly vulnerable such as those who are homeless, have serious mental health problems, substance abuse, are incarcerated or released from prison.

“We are in the process of building a website to share information with a menu of services related to family planning, contraception and abortion.”

He pointed out that the resource guide is available in English and Spanish, but very soon it will be available in 10 or 11 more languages.

“With one click they will find a list of abortion providers with phone numbers and lots of information on where to get contraception, mental health or counseling before making a decision about pregnancy.”

She added that they have a tab on abortion rights in California; and misleading advertising information because there are places posing as health care clinics that people are taken to for pregnancy or abortion care.

“But the goal of these places is to discourage women from terminating a pregnancy.”

What does the safe haven do?

Dr. Baldwin said it will take years of work to build, but the goal is to create a robust network of health care providers, social service agencies and support services to facilitate people’s ability to get the care they need.

“For example, if someone lives in South Los Angeles, if they are coming from Texas, or if they just landed in the country as a refugee from the UK, Ukraine or Sudan they will be able to go to the website and see where to get advice.”

She pointed out that there are dollars set aside so that no one is denied health care based on cost. “Then the safe haven will be a beacon for reproductive health.”

He added that it is very important to create these safe places in different parts of the country, because when access to basic reproductive health care is denied, there are really serious consequences such as maternal and infant mortality and social and economic well-being, leaving people who are denied abortion, live in poverty.

Sylvia Castillo, director of government and community affairs for Essential Access Health, an organization established 50 years ago, said that since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier this summer, 21 million people in the country have lost access to abortion care.

“But even before Roe fell, we’ve seen state restrictions increase. A recent study published by the Duke Walker Institute found that in 2020, just two years ago, 9% of abortions in the United States were obtained by people traveling out of their state of residence.

And she stressed that it is communities of color, low-income and immigrant communities that bear the brunt of abortion restrictions due to racial and structural inequalities.

“That’s why we want to make it clear that here in California, abortion care remains legal, and our state and county leaders are taking historic and comprehensive steps to reduce barriers and increase equitable access to abortion and other services. reproductive health for all.

She noted that the state legislature has passed a comprehensive and robust package of 13 pieces of legislation to ensure that California becomes a true reproductive freedom state.

“Together these 13 bills will lower cost barriers to abortion care and provide practical support for developing and training a workforce that is reflective of the communities that receive care.”

She noted that all of these bills are currently on Governor Newsom’s desk, waiting for him to sign them, but state leaders have also approved a state budget that includes a historic investment of more than $200 million for abortion and reproductive services.

“Of those investments, $20 million will go toward establishing the abortion safe haven pilot program in Los Angeles County.”

He recalled that Los Angeles County is home to 28% of California’s population, and more than a third of the state’s abortions are performed here.

“As Los Angeles County is a major metropolitan transportation hub, it is anticipated that people from across the country and other parts of California will come to Los Angeles for abortion services that they cannot access in their home state or even in their home counties here in California.”

And he said the impact is already being felt because abortion providers in the county and across the state have seen increased wait times over the past year.

He said that in the November election, California voters will have the opportunity to take action to protect the right to abortion and contraception at the polls.

“While abortion rights are secure in California, extremists will not stop at Roe v. Wade overturning, and California must protect itself. Proposition 1 will enshrine in the California State Constitution the right to abortion care and to use or not use contraception.”

In this way, he said, important health decisions will remain between patients and health care providers, no matter who rules the state, and will protect access for generations to come.

Sasha Nochimow of the state organization Access Reproductive Justice said the majority of calls they receive from out of state for abortion care are people in their 20s, low or no income, who identify as African American, Indians or people of color who do not have insurance under California’s MediCal program.

“Los Angeles County is a destination for abortion care for those living in rural areas; and 22 of the 58 counties do not have an abortion clinic. So a third of our counties don’t have a clinic, while Los Angeles has 56 open abortion clinics.”

She mentioned that among the most pressing needs of people who come from abroad, financing to pay for abortion stands out; the second is transportation, bus tickets, money for gas or car rental, flights; and the third thing is accommodation”.

She recalled the case of an Arizona resident who drove 7 hours to Los Angeles for a two-day appointment.

“Alesia was faced with a bill of $2,200 at the time of her appointment, unable to fully cover it. We were able to contribute over $400; and we paid him for three nights in a hotel in the amount of $700”.

She also cited the case of Margaret, a 17-year-old from Northern California who drove eight hours from Northern California to be seen in Los Angeles County for a three-day procedure.

“Fortunately, the cost of that procedure itself was covered. But since Margaret lives and is an eight-hour drive away, she needed four nights in a hotel near the clinic that she was able to cover access to, and that also cost about $700.”

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