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From New York to California, liberals create abortion sanctuaries

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Abortion rights activists demonstrate in Los Angeles, where Democratic leaders have pledged to defend access to the procedure./AFP
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Jun 27, 2022 - 06:29 AM

NEW YORK — Liberal states in America have pledged to act as safe havens for women seeking abortions as providers ratchet up capacity in anticipation of a surge of patients from areas where the procedure will be banned.

“We know that the need is going to skyrocket,” said Sarah Moeller of the Brigid Alliance, a New York-based group that provides travel, accommodation and other support for women looking for an abortion.

The organization helps more than 100 people every month, helping some women travel 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers) to get to their appointment.

It is hiring more staff and boosting fundraising efforts as it anticipates its clients could quickly swell more than tenfold in the wake of Friday’s Supreme Court’s ruling ending the constitutional right to abortion.

“It’s going to be impossible for every single person who needs to travel for care to be able to receive support. So every individual who we are able to help is a victory,” Moeller told AFP.

By overturning Roe v. Wade, the court is leaving it up to individual states to restrict or ban the procedure — meaning women there would either have to continue with their pregnancy, undergo a clandestine abortion, obtain abortion pills, or travel to another state where the procedure remains legal.

The Democratic governors of California, Oregon and Washington issued a joint video message declaring that the West Coast will “remain a place where reproductive health care will be accessible and protected.”

On the other side of the country, New York governor Kathy Hochul said the northeast state “will always be a safe harbor for those seeking access to abortion care.”

She announced a new advertising campaign to inform Americans that they can receive abortions while in her state.

“Everyone who passes through our subways, bus terminals, airports, and shopping centers will know that abortion remains safe, legal, and accessible in New York state,” she tweeted.

Hochul had earlier pledged $35 million to assist access to abortion while lawmakers in California have allocated $152 million.

New York state legalized abortion in 1970, three years before the Roe v. Wade ruling.

“I’m happy that I live in a state where I feel like my rights will be protected,” 36-year-old Nabila Valentin told AFP in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

“So I’m grateful in a sense, but I also realize it’s such a privilege to be able to live in this in this city, in New York State, to feel safe and protected.

“I feel like it’s not going to be like that for a lot of other people,” the doula added.

New York City is home to one of America’s first abortion clinics — Choices Women’s Medical Center in Queens which was established 1971.

‘Challenge’ 

Founder Merle Hoffman said the clinic expects to see “a great many more women” visiting from out of state.

“We have the physical capacity, (but) we will have to staff up in different areas. It’s a challenge, but we’ll be able to step up to make it,” the 76-year-old told AFP.

Her message to women seeking an abortion is a simple one: “We will help you.”

Dr Alice Mark, an abortion provider in Massachusetts and medical advisor at the National Abortion Federation, notes that it will only become clear where, and how far, women will have to travel after states have enforced bans.

A progressive state like Illinois, which is surrounded by states that restrict abortion, can expect to see a huge influx of patients for example.

Flor Hunt of TEACH, an organization that provides abortion training in California, said the state could see “an increase of nearly 3,000 women of reproductive age for whom the nearest provider is in California.”

“How many of those patients are actually going to be able to travel to California, I think that remains to be seen,” she told AFP.

In Massachusetts, Mark is unsure what sort of increase her clinic will see but is getting ready by opening more days and adding extra procedure times.

“Abortion is incredibly safe, abortion is still available, and there are many resources to help you get the abortion that you need. Don’t stop until you get what you want,” she told AFP.

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