The only thing Republican states have become more zealous about than voter suppression is banning abortion. The Trump-packed Supreme Court’s upholding of the Texas vigilante law has helped create a wave of state action to force people to carry unwanted pregnancies, or find alternative means of terminating them. As of March 25, legislators in 41 states introduced 525 bills to restrict abortion. Four states—Idaho, Indiana, South Dakota, and Wyoming—have enacted a total of eight new restrictions.
Thirteen states have trigger laws ready to outlaw abortion the minute the Supreme Court issues a ruling to toss Roe v. Wade. Planned Parenthood and the blue states are preparing to step up as well. In Illinois, at the Missouri border, Planned Parenthood and the Hope Clinic for Women had already been at work providing care to pregnant people from Missouri and southern states unable to access abortion. Since the Supreme Court allowed the Texas law to stand, theose abortion rights advocates stepped up the game. They’ve created a call center where they will help patients arrange for travel, lodging, child care, and funding for the procedure—whatever it takes to help.
Now the two clinics are partnering to create a refuge for people in forced-birth states to come get care. “The expectation is that if the South falls—again—you will have Illinois … a blue boat in a red sea,” said Amy Redd-Greiner, at Hope Clinic. “You have Michigan and Wisconsin, but they are not as accessible.” The call center run by Planned Parenthood has nearly a dozen staff working to find ways to help patients.
“You don’t have to worry,” one of those staffers, Alexandria Ball, tells her callers. “We’ve got you.” She asks, “How much are you comfortably able to put toward your procedure today?” Then she—like her colleagues—gets to work to make up the remainder of the cost.
That work is expanding around the country, and it’s not just Planned Parenthood doing the work: States are stepping up as well.
The state of California has passed a new law to remove many fees on abortions, making the procedures more affordable by prohibiting insurers licensed in California from charging co-payments, deductibles, or other fees related to abortion care. That applies to residents of the state as well as non-residents who have insurance from a company licensed in California.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill, authored by State Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), last week. Gonzalez said that as so many states are restricting abortion, California will be a regional destination for the procedure. The state could become “a reproductive freedom state,” she said, “truly providing a sort of a refuge for pregnant people across the country.”
Oregon has gone even further, approving $15 million to establish the Oregon Reproductive Health Equity Fund in the just-finished legislative session, providing a state fund to help patients coming from elsewhere to obtain abortion services. “In Oregon, we have already seen patients from Texas,” said Kenji Nozaki, chief of affiliate operations for Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette. “So when the Idaho six-week ban goes into effect, we definitely expect an influx of patients.”
Oregon House Speaker Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis), who got the bill passed, said that the goal is ensuring anyone who needs reproductive health services can get them. “This $15 million will deliver on Oregon’s commitment to reproductive freedom by sending practical, meaningful support for people in our state—no matter what happens in Boise, Washington, D.C., or anywhere else,” Rayfield said in a statement.
“Let me be clear: Abortion is health care, and Oregon will continue to be a safe, legal place for people seeking abortions and reproductive care,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said in response to Idaho’s ban. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum added “We are prepared to fight to protect Oregon’s unrestricted access to reproductive health care; Oregon’s borders are open to all who are in need of abortion care—no questions asked!”
Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation last week that would bar legal action against someone seeking an abortion or anyone helping them obtain one. He said the bill was needed “because this is such a perilous time for those seeking freedom of choice, something they have enjoyed for decades.” The bill was in response to the Texas and Idaho bounty bills. “[I]f Idaho won’t stand up for your rights, I will,” Inslee added.
All of this means the next fight we’ll see from Republican state legislatures is how to stop people from traveling out of state for abortion care, and penalizing those who help them. Missouri State Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R) has already got a bill that would create the same mechanism Texas and Idaho are using—bounty hunting by private citizens suing pregnant people for obtaining abortions—to punish anyone who helps a Missouri resident cross state lines.
Restricting out-of-state abortions is likely to become “the next frontier,” said David Cohen, a professor at Drexel Kline School of Law. Given that the Supreme Court has upheld the Texas law repeatedly in emergency shadow docket orders, even while it waits to hear a challenge to the law, Cohen is undoubtedly right. States can’t necessarily prevent people from traveling out of the state, but they can make helping them obtain abortions prohibitively expensive for clinics by drowning them in lawsuits.
It’s clear that this Supreme Court, even with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson added next term, is not going to protect this fundamental right. It’s also clear from the Jackson hearings and from red state actions that they’re not going to stop at abortion. They’re aiming for marriage equality, for contraception—hell, they’ve even started talking about the states banning interracial marriage.
There’s just one solution: expanding the court so that the Trump-packed three, plus insurrectionist Thomas and extreme ideologue Alito can’t rocket us back to a pre-civil rights America.