Can CA really be America’s abortion provider?

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, May 4. I’m Justin Ray.

The Supreme Court seems poised to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

People will debate the decisions that led to this point, and what overturning the landmark 1973 case means nationwide. But the debate that is most pressing for California is how the state will accommodate the potential scores of people in search of reproductive care.

If the law is indeed overturned, it will still be legal in California to get an abortion because the right is codified into our laws (it would also still be legal in 23 other U.S. states as well). There are indications that the state may move to further protect that right through an amendment to the state constitution (that would require voter approval).

The state has made its position on abortion clear: California wants to be a safe haven for reproductive rights. But will the state be able to fulfill that role?

Why there still might be trouble

Not everyone in California has access to a clinic to obtain an abortion.

Five years ago, 40% of California counties did not contain clinics that provided the procedure, according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports reproductive health and abortion rights. That translates to hundreds of thousands of people left without reproductive care.

“Not every place in California is San Francisco or Los Angeles,” Lauren Ralph, an epidemiologist with the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at UCSF, told The San Francisco Chronicle. “There’s a perception that abortion is always easy to access in California, and I think that’s definitely not true, particularly for certain subgroups of pregnant people.”

Additionally, questions remain about how the state would respond to a surge in demand. Two months after Texas’ near-total ban on abortion, the medical director of Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino counties told The Times that three or four out-of-state patients had begun visiting her clinics each day. She estimated that if Roe vs. Wade were overturned, her clinics would see up to 50 out-of-state patients a week.

Despite lingering questions, what remains clear is that clinics have been readying themselves for a potential escalation in demand.

“Planned Parenthood Los Angeles has been dreading this moment and preparing for it,” Sue Dunlap, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, told The Times. “I have every expectation we’ll see more people coming to us. We’ve been working with hospitals, with local law schools. UCLA put in place its [Center on Reproductive Health, Law & Policy] at its law school. We’ve been working to solidify all the pieces that our community will need in this future.”

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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A pair of new Omicron subvariants has emerged, raising the possibility that survivors of earlier Omicron strains can get reinfected. Fontana News Room

Passengers make their way through Delta Airlines Terminal Two at Los Angeles International Airport in April.

(Gary Coronado/Fontana News Room)

Sacramento authorities charged three people with murder in a rampage that killed six and wounded 12 outside a Sacramento nightclub strip in the early hours of April 3. Sacramento County Dist. Atty. Anne Marie Schubert said Smiley Martin, his brother Dandrae Martin, and Mtula Payton are each charged with the murders of three women — Melinda Davis, Johntaya Alexander and Yamile Martinez-Andrade — struck in the crossfire of their shootout. Fontana News Room


Griffith Park is named for a guy who shot his wife — and other true stories of L.A. parks. Patt Morrison brings us eye-opening tales about Eugene A. Obregón Park, Runyon Canyon Park and many other places. Fontana News Room

A view of the north-facing facade of Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory — named after Griffith J. Griffith, who donated the money to have it built — is seen on a vintage postcard from Patt Morrison’s collection.

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Medical parole got them out of state prison. Now they’re in a decertified nursing home. Nearly every California medical parole patient has been moved to a single, decertified facility in Sylmar. The consolidation has concerned family members, advocates and lawmakers. LAist

Activists call on Gov. Newsom to fund the fight against health and racial inequities. Over the past two weeks, dozens of nonprofit workers across many cities have held rallies to convince Newsom to support their organizations. In 2021, Newsom turned down a proposal that would have included $100 million in his budget for the California Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund, which would provide grants to nonprofits serving disadvantaged communities. Capital and Main

As drought crisis deepens, the government will release less water from a Colorado River reservoir. After years of severe drought and climate change, the water level in Lake Powell — the second-largest reservoir on the Colorado River — has dropped to just 24% of full capacity. To boost the reservoir, the federal government announced that it plans to hold back water to reduce risks of the lake falling below a point at which Glen Canyon Dam would no longer generate electricity. Fontana News Room

 A boat floats on Lake Powell in Dec. 2021.

A boat floats on Lake Powell, a vast reservoir of Colorado River water situated near the Utah-Arizona border.

(Luis Sinco/Fontana News Room)


Knock.LA reports that deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department tried to shoot a deputy gang tattoo off a man during a camping trip in Kern County in 2015. “Department sources say the deputies shot the tattoo off because an unauthorized change had been made to the design. All deputy gang tattoo changes must be cleared with deputy gang leadership,” Cerise Castle reports. Knock.LA


A top California official pushed hard for a $600-million mask deal. Fraud claims followed. In the frantic first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, three companies promised officials that they could secure millions of protective masks in exchange for $1.6 billion in no-bid government contracts. Each effort ended badly for the state. Fontana News Room

After being pushed to the brink of extinction, California condors have returned to a region of their Northern California habitat for the first time in 130 years. Biologists will continue to monitor the birds in the wild to make sure they’re adapting to their new surroundings. Fontana News Room

Two condors at the Northern California Condor Restoration Program in Northern California.

Two condors at the Northern California Condor Restoration Program in Northern California.

(Northern California Condor Restoration Program)


Column: Clayton Kershaw has surpassed Sandy Koufax as the Dodgers’ greatest pitcher. Koufax accomplished many incredible feats during his Dodgers career, but Kershaw’s longevity has allowed him to eclipse the Hall of Famer, columnist Bill Plaschke writes. Fontana News Room

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Today’s California memory is from Lew Istre:

I grew up in and around the Santa Cruz mountains. In the 1950s, my family settled in the “gem of the foothills,” Los Gatos. Five years ago, I found a real estate ad that featured my childhood home. I was surprised to find an indoor shot of what had been my bedroom, now modernized and staged. The view outside the window was the same vista of mountains and trees that had inspired a little boy to his lifelong work as an artist and writer. Many things have changed, but the mountains and trees remain, there and in my heart.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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