“We need to stand at this moment … as a beacon. As a rational, welcoming and supportive place,” Third District Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said during a discussion about abortion access in LA County during the Tuesday, May 3, LA County Supervisors meeting.
Kuehl’s statements came before all five LA County Supervisors voted in favor of an item that would support strengthened access to abortion statewide.
During the Tuesday meeting, supervisors Kuehl, Holly Mitchell, Janice Hahn, Hilda Solis and Kathryn Barger all approved support for a proposed California Senate Bill, SB 1245, that “aims to address the current barriers to accessing abortion care in California and will expand the work around sexual and reproductive healthcare services in the largest County in the nation,” according to a motion by Mitchell and Kuehl. The bill also includes a $20 million state budget request to further its efforts toward providing abortion access to California residents and non-residents.
The motion has been on the Supervisors’ agenda for days; it was drawn up well before a Monday, May 2, Politico report leaked a draft Supreme Court decision indicating the Court would overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. Supervisors speaking at the May 3 meeting said they were alarmed but not surprised by the news.
“I thought I knew what I was going to say about this when we were looking at it yesterday,” Kuehl, representing Santa Monica for the Third LA County District, said. “And then all of a sudden we started — you know, we saw the tweet from Politico and everything opened up.” Kuehl described the potential Supreme Court decision as “tectonic.”
Kuehl and Mitchell’s motion describes SB 1245, which they wrote would “establish a reproductive healthcare pilot project in the County to support innovative approaches and patient-centered collaborations to safeguard patient access to abortions, regardless of residency.”
Supervisors placed the item on their May 3 agenda following up on a Jan. 25 request they made to County staff asking for ways to become a “safe haven” for people seeking abortion, should other states implement bans or Roe v. Wade be overturned.
At the time, all five Supervisors (four Democrats and one Republican) voted to request the County CEO, the directors of the Department of Health Services and Department of Public Health, and County Counsel coordinate with Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health care advocates to develop plans for how the County could respond to potential abortion bans from other states.
Among supervisors’ requests in January were an analysis of the potential budget impact associated with the State’s proposals to open up abortion access to nonresidents. They also asked for opportunities to enhance medical training in the County, including training to assist victims of botched or complicated non-hospital abortions in other states.
At the January meeting, Supervisors also asked staff to identify “opportunities to reduce and address health disparities by expanding reproductive and sexual health services, supplies and education, for marginalized communities and those who might be harder to reach.”
Although abortion access is the law of the land in California, it is not written into the California Constitution, but that could change following Monday’s news.
Gov. Gavin Newsom and top legislative leaders committed Monday to putting an amendment on the November ballot that would “enshrine the right to choose” in California.
Newsom has pledged to make California a sanctuary for people to come and get abortions. According to AP reporting, SB 1245 is one of 13 California bills currently proposed to help codify and expand abortion access.
Monday night, Newsom and legislative leaders added another proposal to their list: an amendment to the state constitution. They provided no further details, other than saying it would preserve the right to choose.
“We know we can’t trust the Supreme Court to protect reproductive rights, so California will build a firewall around this right in our state constitution,” Newsom, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins said in a joint statement. “Women will remain protected here.”
Adam Beam contributed to this report.