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(Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)
Stacy Cross, president and CEO at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, speaks during a June 24 press conference in San Jose opposing the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Months before the U.S. Supreme Court’s catastrophic decision overturning Roe v. Wade, our Planned Parenthood Mar Monte health centers in Silicon Valley and the East Bay were seeing patients from states that already had made access to abortion virtually impossible.

But for years we have also been seeing thousands of patients from “abortion deserts” in a state where many assume there are no obstacles to receiving this care — California.

Some of our abortion care coordinators, including at our Oakland health center, often arrange appointments for patients who have been unable to find any in the California regions where they live. And, like many patients in abortion-ban states who have recently crossed state lines to access care, many of our Central Valley patients have been forced to take a day off work, find child care and drive more than 100 miles round trip to get an abortion in their own reproductive-freedom state.

Since the Supreme Court ruling, we have heard from concerned California patients who have called to ask if abortion is now illegal here. Many know it is already extremely difficult to access abortion in their communities, so some apparently assumed that the Supreme Court decision had made it completely impossible.

We reassure them that abortion is still legal in California and that the Legislature just passed Senate Constitution Amendment 10, which will put a measure on the November ballot to specifically codify in our state Constitution the right to abortion and contraceptives. Still, as the state takes a bold leadership role in protecting this essential health care and fighting back against the Supreme Court’s radically unjust ruling, it’s important to remember that, even here, abortion-access is too often dependent on your ZIP code.

Earlier this year, our organization ran up against a roadblock while trying to expand much-needed health care for our patients in Visalia, part of the Central Valley where there is an acute shortage of doctors and clinicians. There was significant support in the conservative community for this effort to increase access to affordable health care in the region, which was also recommended in the 2017-22 Tulare County Community Health Improvement Plan. But significant opposition from those against abortion forced us to delay our plans.

While we remain committed to expanding health care in Visalia, for now those who live there still have no access to abortion care within about 50 miles.

We have been preparing for increased demand by contracting with additional abortion providers and training more clinicians to provide aspiration abortions in health centers, especially at major transportation hubs such as San Jose and Oakland. We have also optimized training partnerships with medical schools, residencies and fellowships as an investment in future abortion providers.

Right now, we are prepared to serve 250-500 more abortion patients every week — and that is not only for patients who come here from outside California.

I am very proud to be in a state that’s passing critical legislation to protect the right to abortion and those who provide it. But it is just as crucial that Californians continue to talk about the importance of abortion as health care, tell their personal stories of what it has meant in their lives and vote for the ballot measure this fall that will cement rights to abortion — and birth control — in our state Constitution.

You will not only be standing up for people from states where abortion rights have suddenly disappeared, you will also be helping your California neighbors who need and deserve equal access.

Stacy Cross is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, headquartered in San Jose.

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