Reading the December California Future of Abortion Council report was a sobering moment for us. More than 40 California organizations, including the offices of Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, offered 45 recommendations to expand abortion access, from funding to loans for physicians to increased “abortion care later in pregnancy.” For a woman seeking an abortion, these organizations and lawmakers want the state to be a sanctuary, offering “gas, lodging, transportation, childcare, doula support, food, lost wages.” But for a woman who wants to carry her unborn child to term or needs these resources for her born child? Crickets.
The truth is — with over 400 facilities performing abortions, offered by nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and physician assistants, and via telehealth — there is no lack of access to an abortion in California. The abortion pill can be prescribed remotely, and the state has allowed abortions via telehealth for a decade. Yet mothers are not looking for abortion expansion but rather help with basic necessities they need to survive and thrive.
In California, the state with the highest percentage of impoverished residents, economic hardship reigns supreme. Where are the recommendations to address the millions of missing housing units, the unaffordable childcare situation, the inadequate prenatal care many women receive, the deadly maternal mortality rate compared to the rest of the developed world, or the dismal state of women’s preventive care? The California Future of Abortion Council report has none. How shortsighted that when our rural and underserved communities are facing a major primary care physician shortage, the state wants to force medical students and Catholic health care providers to perform abortions against their consciences!
The $61 million additional abortion funding in the governor’s budget solves none of the reproductive justice issues we see. It leaves a woman still housing insecure, or poor, or in an abusive relationship, or unsupported in some other fashion. These recommendations target poor Black and Brown women, many of whom don’t want an abortion. According to the most recent Gallup poll in May, the majority of low-income people identify as pro-life, and according to a new Knights of Columbus/Marist poll, 68 percent of Latinos and African Americans support restrictions on abortion. When we help pregnant immigrant women in our communities, we always ask if they thought of having an abortion, and they respond almost in unison they have never considered nor wanted it.
As Latinas, our community celebrates children and families as central to our culture. But instead of listening to our communities, the state wants to force taxpayers to decimate our population. Pushing unwanted abortion on our communities is exploitative and is reproductive coercion.
We have held women as they cried over past abortions that broke their hearts and wrecked their dreams for a family. We have walked with women as they fought to raise their children, earn their education, and work hard to support their families. We have followed the statistics that our sisters are having fewer children than they desire.
Through advocating, we have learned of several powerful pro-choice Latina legislators who experienced pregnancy at a challenging time in their lives. Each of these women had tremendous support systems, welcomed their children, and ascended to the heights of their careers as mothers. What an inspiration to witness these women’s ability to overcome and succeed as working moms!
These are the dreams of the women we serve. Each expecting mother is strong, capable, and deserves the utmost support so that she and her child can rise together. Our sisters need a cheerleader and an advocate at their side, saying, “You can do this.” Sadly, California maintains a double standard — paving the way for these legislators to achieve their dreams of motherhood and career empowerment, but offering abortion as the sole solution for women coming after them.
The $46 billion state budget surplus creates immense opportunities for creative responses to female and maternal challenges. What California needs is equity for the choices of pregnant and parenting women as they pursue motherhood. Instead of caving to the abortion lobby and focusing solely on the quick fix of abortion, we challenge you to listen to the desires of women who want to achieve their dreams and raise their children.
Our immigrant communities, low-income women and women of color deserve empowering, nonviolent solutions. Instead of funding policies that will destroy families, we need the governor and legislators to enact meaningful change for women and families that uphold and support them. In the meantime, through our Catholic Charities, Catholic health care, pregnancy centers and churches, we will continue advocating for women in need and being a resource for them. That is our California dream.