Looking for leading beneficiaries of the draft U.S. Supreme Court abortion opinion leaked in early May, if it becomes reality? Try California and its current political leadership.
For anyone who missed reports on the decision draft, it essentially would uphold a Mississippi law all but banning abortions and revoke the federal protections of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that made privacy a right, thus legalizing abortion everywhere in America.
This leaves California an abortion haven, and women barred from the procedure in other states are already coming here to ensure their safety.
For some, it’s “abortion tourism,” for others permanent moves. And there will be many more if and when the draft ruling becomes official.
A few other states also will become abortion destinations, helping women not ready for motherhood. But no place else offers as many choices and price points as California.
Among items the draft ruling did not consider: For millenia, whenever and wherever abortions have been banned, illicit ones proliferated, with women from 13 to 40-plus often using coat hangers, botanical potions and untrained, fly-by-night abortionists to get relief they desperately seek — and sometimes dying or being rendered infertile for life.
By coincidence, the leaked ruling — later confirmed by Chief Justice John Roberts as authentic but not binding or necessarily permanent — came at the same moment new state figures showed a California population loss of 117,552 persons during 2021.
That was half as many as in 2020, and did not measure the influx of immigrants, both domestic and foreign, last December and early this year. Still, it was not a happy number for this state.
But the very likely decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, could be one antidote for California’s population losses, helping return the state to its accustomed position as a fast-growing place that attracts many of the persecuted from elsewhere.
The California tradition of welcoming people in dire straits dates from before the Civil War, when hundreds of escaped slaves made their way here to get as far as possible from bondage.
The trend continued after the Civil War, as many defeated former Confederate officers arrived. Still later, California became a haven for Jewish intellectuals persecuted by Nazi Germany, hosting the likes of Thomas Mann and Berthold Brecht.
Immigrants once persecuted in Czarist Russia and later by the Soviet Union founded movie studios and high-tech companies. Undocumented arrivals escaping a variety of injustices in Latin America began coming in the last century. All these groups pushed California’s long era of massive growth.
The next persecuted group seeking shelter in the Golden State may well be women desperately wanting abortions but unable to obtain them safely in the 26 states considered certain to ban the procedure if the Supreme Court decides as expected. Many will bring husbands and children.
For sure, California’s current leaders will welcome them with open arms and, very likely, financial aid.
Immediately after the draft decision leaked, Gov. Gavin Newsom, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and state Senate President Toni Atkins proposed amending the state Constitution to protect abortion rights even beyond the current state law, signed in 1967 by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan.
That measure protects privacy rights, but Atkins told a reporter she wants “to be very clear that the right to abortion is what we’re talking about.”
Any such amendment must clear the Legislature by June 30 to appear on the November ballot, where it could form a centerpiece for Democratic campaigns.
National Democrats also seized on the issue. Scores of Democratic-oriented PACs sent fund-raising emails within hours, plainly hoping suburban women who support abortion rights will stave off what has looked like a midterm Republican victory and takeover of the House of Representatives.
For sure, many women of fertility age in states like Texas and Florida, which adopted strict anti-abortion laws in the last few months, have eyed moving here, even though housing costs are a common problem.
Some have told hometown reporters their rights and safety trump high rents.
The bottom line: This is the newest demonstration that real life and the courts can both intrude on politics and create change, sometimes very suddenly.
Email Thomas Elias at [email protected].