Although last week’s Supreme Court leak on abortion was only a draft, the possible fallout of a likely ruling overturning Roe v. Wade has already hit a number of blue states that are preparing to become abortion “sanctuaries.”
As conservative politicians have celebrated the possibility that the right to an abortion may be overturned, Democrats are moving swiftly to bolster abortion care in their states and become what California Governor Gavin Newsom has described as a “sanctuary” for patients who will be forced to seek out-of-state care.
With additional funding, providers are rushing to expand their resources and reorganize personnel as they brace for an influx of patients who could be coming from the 13 Republican states that have trigger laws in place, should the landmark ruling fall in the coming weeks.
“We’re working on that diligently right now in anticipation of the decision,” Dr. Stacy De-Lin, an associate medical director at Planned Parenthood, told Newsweek.
“Everyone is anticipating the increase, and we’re all thinking about ways to increase telemedicine abortion and [ask], ‘Do we need to change staffing?'” Dr. Danielle Fincher, who is a member of the Committee to Protect Health Care, added. “We don’t know what it’s going to look like until it happens, but we’re trying to be as prepared as we can.”
While the leaked draft by Justice Samuel Alito stirred a national frenzy, the abortion-rights movement has long prepared for a challenge to the individual liberty that the Supreme Court ruled as protected by the Constitution in 1973. But anticipation of a post-Roe reality didn’t make the news any easier to grapple with.
“The movement has been preparing for the fall of Roe for decades,” Steph Black, an abortion-rights advocate from Washington D.C., told Newsweek. “Roe has never been a practical reality for places like the South, and it also has not been the fast-stop defense that we’re calling it.”
“When everything first leaked, I was completely crushed. Defeated. Disheartened. Angry,” Fincher said. “Now it’s a little bit more like, we know an influx is coming, we know this is going to be difficult, what can we do to get in place to be ready for this? Let’s get to work.”
The leaked opinion signaled that the court’s majority would allow individual states to determine the legality of abortions, many of which have not made exceptions for rape, incest or risk of death in their trigger laws.
“It’s not that we’re unprepared for this,” Black said. “The surprise in the last couple of weeks has been more about how soon the fall of Roe is coming and how severe it’s going to be.”
For many providers, a pending Supreme Court ruling would amplify the strain that many abortion clinics have already endured in the months since Texas enacted its own restrictive law banning abortions after roughly six weeks of pregnancy.
De-Lin, who provides care for patients in Florida and New York, said both states have experienced a “tremendous” influx of patients from Texas, noting that she herself cares for several Texan patients per day.
Those patients have even travelled nearly 1,600 miles to Baltimore, where Fincher practices.
“Where Maryland is, it has always drawn people from North and South Carolina or the northern part of the South. [The Texas abortion ban] was kind of the first time that I’ve seen people from quite so far away, and I anticipate that is only going to increase after the decision inevitably becomes final,” Fincher said.
“I had one patient whose procedure was done at 1:30 in the afternoon and she caught a plane back to Texas at 4 p.m.,” she said.
Extensive travel plans are not abnormal for patients seeking out-of-state care.
Dr. Colleen McNicholas, the chief medical officer at the Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, told Newsweek that although southern Illinois should be able to absorb the tens of thousands of patients who will be arriving, “the real important aspect of care that we now need to pivot to is managing the logistics of folks who are needing to travel hundreds of miles.”
For example, Black, who is a practical support volunteer, has driven patients from as far as Chicago, Virginia, Florida and Colorado all the way to D.C.
“It’s hard and expensive, especially if you already can’t afford the cost of the abortion, let alone the hotel room, let alone the transportation, let alone the food, let alone the childcare,” Black said, explaining that it’s these expenses that lead abortion funds to run out of money much quicker.
Fincher said the best way for the public to support providers is by donating to local abortions funds, which have infrastructure and plans in place for the day Roe is overturned.
“They know the independent clinics, they know hotels that are friendly, they know what the local patients need,” she said. “Giving money and giving support to local abortion funds is one of the best things that you can do because they’re oftentimes going to be the ones on the ground, doing the work, to get people from a hostile state to where they need to go.”
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