Planned Parenthood opened a health center and nearby community center in Inglewood. They provide mental health and reproductive health services. (Ural Garrett for AfroLA)

Roe reversal fuels clinic to keep abortion options open for Angelenos

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade ended the federally supported right to an abortion. Dozens of states followed suit with restrictions or outright bans on reproductive rights.

Nurse practitioner Kara James said that living in California now as a reproductive-aged woman is something to be grateful for.

A safe haven and a “gift”

“It’s such a gift to be in California,” said James. “Los Angeles and California are stepping up to ensure that we provide care no matter what, and Planned Parenthood is making sure we have providers who are licensed, skilled and provide abortion services. It’s extremely important for us.”

James has been a staunch supporter of the recently opened Planned Parenthood center in Inglewood, where she currently works. The right to choose has been important for her since she was a student at Southern University A & M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“I will never forget the old Black male doctor who provided the service for me that changed my life,” explained James. ”It’s hard to believe that we are in a battle today for an actual human right.

According to a June Guttmacher Instutute report, more than 862,000 abortions were provided nationwide in 2017. California provided about 16% of those procedures.

In response to the end of Roe v. Wade’s protections, California Gov. Gavin Newsom immediately signed a $125 million reproductive health legislation package that expands abortion access for women and aims to protect abortion patients and providers. Newsom signed legislation eliminating out-of-pocket costs for abortion services earlier this year. A $1.5 billion tax credit to draw film production away from anti-abortion states is also in the works.

In addition, the state legislature passed a constitutional amendment to explicitly codify the rights to access abortion and birth control. (The amendment will appear on November’s ballot as Proposition 1.)

Holistic care for Black patients

The Planned Parenthood health center and community center opened weeks after Justice Alito’s opinion was leaked. With the local community in mind, the centers’ rooms are named after Inglewood neighborhoods and are decorated with artwork from local Black artists. According to James, the centers in Inglewood provide support for both body and mind.

“We provide clinical services specifically to address health inequities in the Black community, like prenatal care, which is something we don’t provide everywhere else,” explained James. “There’s also behavioral health care because, as Black folk, we go through hell and high water on a regular basis. So, we have a mental health provider right there in the clinic.” The community center offers doula and family therapy services, she said.

The National Abortion Federation’s hotline, which books lodging and travel for abortion patients traveling out of state, reported a 5,100% increase in plane or bus trips and a 1,400% increase in hotel room bookings in the month after Roe was overturned. James said they’ve already started to see an influx of patients from other states at the health clinic, and they expect an increase down the line.

The clinic could attract patients from states like Nevada where women’s reproductive rights are protected yet women lack access as a result of abortion deserts outside of major cities. California is far from states that have restricted or banned abortions, aside from Arizona, so there shouldn’t be much of a bottleneck.

Planned Parenthood and other organizations have spent decades assisting patients trying to access abortion services. The Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project (WRRAP) provides funding for patients seeking abortions in all 50 states and works directly with 700 clinics, doctors and hospitals nationwide. WRRAP Executive Director Sylvia Ghazarian said her group was upset by the Supreme Court’s decision, but quickly got to work to help patients, especially Black patients.

“The majority of individuals, particularly pregnant Black women who are in their first trimesters, are seeking the abortion pill by mail,” said Ghazarian. She said that WRRAP covers the associated costs: the medication itself, shipping and telemedicine visits.

Ghazarian said she feels like the overturning of Roe v. Wade is just the start of stripping away even more reproductive rights. This could disproportionately impact the Black community.

Black women make up 13% of the U.S. population, but the account for more than a third of all abortions performed, according to a BBC report. “Structural inequities — including living on low incomes and limited access to health insurance — all contribute to the higher rates of abortions among people of color,” said Antonia Biggs, a researcher at the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, in the report.

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