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Opponents of California’s Abortion Rights Measure Mislead on Expense to Taxpayers

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“With Proposition 1, the number of abortion seekers from other states will continue to increase and cost taxpayers millions more.”

California Together, No to Proposal 1, on his website, August 16, 2022

California Together, a campaign led by religious and anti-abortion groups, hopes to persuade voters to reject a ballot measure that would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. The group warns that taxpayers will be on the hook for an influx of abortion seekers from abroad.

Proposal 1 was introduced by the Democrat-controlled Legislature in response to the US Supreme Court’s decision to set aside the Roe v. Wade put to the vote. If passed, it would protect a person’s “fundamental right to choose to have an abortion,” along with the right to contraception.

According to California Together’s website, “Proposition 1 will further increase the number of out-of-state abortion seekers and cost taxpayers millions more.”

The campaign raised similar cost concerns in a voter information guide sent to all registered voters ahead of the Nov. 8 election. A prominent argument is that Proposition 1 will make California a “safe haven” for abortion seekers, including those in late pregnancy — and that would drain taxpayers’ money.

We decided to take a closer look at these eye-catching statements to see how well they hold up when disassembled.

We reached out to California Together to find out the basis for their arguments against the measure. The campaign cited an analysis by the Guttmacher Institute on Abortion Rights, which estimated before Roe’s ouster that the number of women ages 15 to 49 whose nearest abortion provider would be in California would increase by 3,000% in response to state abortion bans. The Guttmacher analysis states that most overseas patients in California would probably come from Arizona because of its driving distance.

California Together does not identify a specific cost to taxpayers for the measure. Rather, it points to millions of dollars the state has already allocated to support abortion and reproductive health services as an indication of how much more the state could spend if the proposed change is passed.

Sources indicate that people are already coming to the state for abortion services.

Jessica Pinckney, executive director of Oakland-based Access Reproductive Justice, which provides financial and emotional support to abortion patients in California, said the organization had seen an increase in out-of-state calls even before the High Court’s ruling in June. Pinckney expects more cases to be treated as more states restrict abortion — regardless of the outcome of Proposition 1.

Will it cost taxpayers millions?

In its fiscal 2022-23 budget, California has allocated more than $200 million to expand reproductive health services, including $20 million for a fund to cover the travel expenses of abortion seekers regardless of the state you live. Once established and running in 2023, the fund will award grants to nonprofits that help women with transportation and housing.

However, none of those expenses are linked to Proposition 1, said Carolyn Chu, deputy senior legislation analyst at the bipartisan Office of Legislative Analysts. It’s already in the budget and will be paid out next year regardless of what happens to the voting measure.

In the end, the Legislative Analyst’s Office found “no direct tax implications” if Proposition 1 is passed because Californians already have abortion protections. And people arriving from out of state don’t qualify for state-subsidized health programs like Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, Chu added in an interview. “If people travel to California for services, including abortion, that doesn’t mean they’re eligible for Medi-Cal,” she said.

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However, opponents of Proposition 1 see the cost argument differently.

Richard Temple, a campaign strategist for California Together, said a “no” vote will mandate lawmakers to halt the relief fund. “Defeat Prop. 1 and you send a loud signal to the legislature and the governor that you don’t want to foot the bill for this type of out-of-state spending,” Temple said.

What about an influx of abortion seekers?

A key element of California Together’s argument is the idea that California will become a haven for abortion seekers. Opponents claim that Proposition 1 opens the door to a new legal interpretation of the state’s Reproductive Privacy Act. Currently, this law allows abortion up to the point of viability, usually around 24 weeks gestation or later, to protect the patient’s life or health.

Against the constitutional amendment, the voters’ guide argues that it would allow all late-term abortions “even if the mother’s life is not in danger, even if the healthy baby could survive outside the womb”.

Because the proposal says the state cannot interfere with abortion rights, opponents argue the current law, which restricts most abortions based on profitability, will become unconstitutional. They claim that without restrictions, California will attract thousands, possibly millions, of late-pregnant women.

Statistically, that’s unlikely. The state does not report abortion numbers, but nationwide only 1% of abortions occur at 21 weeks or later, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Whether there will be a new interpretation if Proposition 1 goes through is up for debate.

UCLA law professor Cary Franklin, who specializes in reproductive rights, said just because Proposition 1 establishes a universal right to abortion doesn’t mean all abortions will become legal. Constitutional language is always broad, and laws and regulations may restrict these rights. For example, she said, the Second Amendment to the US Constitution grants the right to bear arms, but laws and regulations bar children from buying guns.

“The amendment does not supersede anything of this law,” Franklin said.

But the current law was written and construed under the current California constitution, which has no express right to abortion, said Tom Campbell, a former lawmaker who teaches law at Chapman University. If Proposition 1 is accepted, courts could interpret things differently. “Any state restrictions on abortion would need to be reconsidered,” Campbell said.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office concluded that “it is unclear whether a court could interpret the proposal to extend reproductive rights beyond existing law”.

California voters will soon have their say.

Polls have found broad support for the constitutional amendment. An August poll by the Berkeley IGS Poll found that 71% of voters would vote “yes” for Proposal 1. A September poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found 69% support.

Our verdict

California Together warns voters, “Proposition 1 will continue to increase the number of out-of-state abortion seekers and cost taxpayers millions more.”

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Proposal 1 would protect the “fundamental right of a person to choose to have an abortion”.

While it could result in more people coming to California for abortion services, it’s already happening before voters decide on the measure.

Also, Proposition 1 does not allocate new expenses. So the $20 million state fund to cover travel expenses for abortion seekers would exist regardless of whether the constitutional amendment is passed. Conclusion: An impartial analyst determined that there will be no direct tax impact on the state and out-of-state residents are not eligible for federally-subsidized health care programs.

It is speculative that Proposition 1 would expand abortion rights beyond what is currently permitted, or that the state would allocate more money to out-of-state residents.

Because the statement contains some truth but ignores critical facts to give a different impression, we rate the statement mostly false.

Sources

California Together, No to Proposition 1, “Q&A: What You Should Know About Prop 1,” accessed August 22, 2022

Legislative Analyst’s Office, Analysis of Proposition 1, accessed August 22, 2022

Email interview with Kelli Reid, Director of Client Services at McNally Temple Associates, August 24, 2022

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Telephone interview with Carolyn Chu, Chief Deputy Legislative Analyst, Legislative Analyst’s Office, September 12, 2022

CalMatters, “California Doesn’t Collect Basic Abortion Data — Even as It Invites an Influx from Abroad,” June 27, 2022

California Health Benefits Review Program, “Analysis of California Senate Bill 245 Abortion Services: Cost Sharing,” accessed September 12, 2022

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SB 1142, Abortion Services, accessed September 12, 2022

Telephone interview with Richard Temple, campaign strategist for California Together, September 12, 2022

Telephone interview with Cary Franklin, UCLA School of Law Professor of Law, September 13, 2022

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Telephone interview with Luke Koushmaro, Senior Policy Analyst, Legislative Analyst’s Office, September 13, 2022

Gov. Gavin Newsom, remarks in Sacramento, California, June 27, 2022

Public Policy Institute of California, PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and Their Government, accessed September 13, 2022

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California State Budget, Health and Human Services Summary Document, accessed September 14, 2022

Telephone interview with Jessica Pinckney, Executive Director of Access Reproductive Justice, September 15, 2022

Telephone interview with Tom Campbell, Professor of Law at Chapman University, September 15, 2022

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SB 1301, Reproductive Privacy Act, accessed 19 September 2022

Email interview with HD Palmer, Assistant Director of Foreign Affairs at the California Department of Treasury, September 20, 2022

This story was produced by KHN, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism on health issues. Along with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operational programs of the KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a donated non-profit organization that provides information on health issues to the nation.

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