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Officials from Santa Clara, San Mateo counties vow support for out-of-state patients seeking abortions

'We are vowing to protect the lives of women and girls'
Community members gather across the street from the downtown Palo Alto Whole Foods on Dec. 1, 2021 to protest in favor of abortion rights.

Elected officials in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties vowed to protect women's rights to abortion and reproductive health care after the Supreme Court voted Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade and leave the decision regarding whether to ban abortions up to individual states.

Santa Clara County officials and others gathered at the Robert Peckham Federal Building in downtown San Jose on Friday morning, hours after the Supreme Court's decision, to affirm their support for abortion rights and urge voters to elect officials around the country that will do the same.

Several speakers at the rally, organized by Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, also called on Gov. Gavin Newsom to support an amendment to the state constitution that would protect the right to have an abortion.

"We are vowing to protect the lives of women and girls, not only in California, but to keep this fight going across the country," Chavez said.

Chavez said California cannot be an island and urged supporters to expand their outreach to voters living in other states. She predicted that if Republicans win control of Congress and the presidency, abortion would be outlawed nationwide.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg said county leaders would do everything they could to increase access to reproductive health care.

"For those who may live in a state where the right to choose has been cruelly snatched away, you are welcome to Santa Clara County to receive the care you need," Ellenberg said.

Stacy Cross, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, said the local chapter was ready to provide care to an additional 250-500 patients a week, after receiving a $3 million boost in funding from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.

San Jose City Council member Dev Davis, who described herself as perhaps the most conservative member of the body, said she cried tears of sadness, fear and anger upon hearing the decision. She said she valued personal liberty and said she was angry that her daughter would have to consider health care access when choosing where to attend college or get a job.

Davis also said the city will continue to enforce two ordinances previously passed to restrict picketers at abortion clinics and within 300 feet of a residence.

Planned Parenthood Mar Monte's clinic in Mountain View. . Embarcadero Media file photo by Sammy Dallal

Many of the lawmakers signed a letter from Chavez and Davis to Newsom last month, urging the state to be prepared for the impending decision overturning Roe v. Wade after a draft of the Supreme Court's opinion was leaked in early May.

The letter asked the governor to announce his support for Assembly Bill 2091, which would prohibit local law enforcement from sharing information about patients seeking an abortion with out-of-state authorities. The letter also called on the governor to establish the funding and logistics to help ensure patients coming from out of state can receive care regardless of their financial situation.

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen affirmed he would reject any request to cooperate with such an investigation by another state, city or county.

"If women aren't free, then none of us are free," Rosen said.

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors also vowed action to protect women's reproductive rights, as affirmed by San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa in a written statement on Friday.

"The assault on women's reproductive freedoms ends at the California border! While the SCOTUS decision today gives red states the green light to ban abortions, here in California we must fight harder than ever to protect and expand women's rights," Canepa said.

On June 14, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors approved the Women's Reproductive Freedom and Healthcare Privacy Action Plan to provide financial support for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte to deliver increased abortion care; create a buffer zone ordinance for the unincorporated areas of the county; develop an advocacy agenda; establish the Reproductive Rights and Healthcare Privacy Subcommittee to include Supervisors Dave Pine and Warren Slocum; and launch an information campaign to inform patients that San Mateo County Health continues to offer reproductive health services.

The action plan was developed in conjunction with Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, which serves residents of northern California, including San Mateo County. Planed Parenthood Mar Monte has three clinics in San Mateo County that provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care, gender-affirming care, behavioral health and family medicine services. The clinics serve about 13,000 San Mateo County residents a year, according to a statement from the Board of Supervisors.

According to a report released in October 2021 by the Guttmacher Institute, overturning Roe v. Wade would likely result in 26 states banning abortion. Out-of-state patients seeking abortion care in California would increase from 46,000 to 1.4 million, an increase of nearly 3,000%, the supervisors noted. Between July 2021 and last month, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte provided abortion care to 87 out-of-state patients. Five of those patients received services at clinics in San Mateo County.

"We are at a precipice and the time for action is now. These financial investments to Planned Parenthood Monte Mar will allow for more women to make decisions about their bodies, particularly those living in states set to ban abortion. What we have done today is monumental in this effort," Slocumsaid in the June 14 statement.

The financial investment includes $1 million allocated in two tranches. The first batch, $549,312, would support the purchase of technology and equipment to accommodate increased patient capacity at the Planned Parenthood clinics. The second batch of funding, up to $450,688, would be held in reserve and used as needs emerge.

The supervisors also plan to consider a draft buffer zone ordinance for unincorporated San Mateo County clinics to protect patients and employees from harassment, intimidation and obstruction when they access a Planned Parenthood clinic while also balancing First Amendment rights. The ordinance will be brought to the Board of Supervisors at its meeting this Tuesday, June 28.

The county also plans to develop a women's reproductive freedom and health care privacy advocacy agenda in coordination with the Commission on the Status of Women, County Attorney’s Office, county staff and the board subcommittee, which would be considered at the board's Aug. 2 meeting.

The county also plans to lead an information campaign to let patients know that San Mateo County Health continues to offer reproductive services.