Groups push to make California a haven for abortion rights

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Dec 8 (Reuters) - California must prepare for an influx of women seeking abortions in the liberal state if the U.S. Supreme Court ends the constitutional right to the procedure, dozens of women's health and rights groups said in a report released on Wednesday.

The report by the Future of Abortion Council is aimed at positioning California as place where women from conservative states can get abortions. It comes as the Supreme Court considers overturning or weakening its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized the procedure nationwide.

Last week, the conservative-dominated court signaled a willingness to dramatically curtail abortion rights in America and possibly overturn Roe during oral arguments for a Mississippi case.

"It is imperative that California take the lead, live up to its proclamation as a 'Reproductive Freedom State,' and be ready to serve anyone who seeks abortion services," Democrat Toni Atkins, president pro tem of the state Senate, wrote in a letter introducing the report.

The council made more than 40 recommendations, including a call for the state to fund programs to train additional abortion providers and legal protections for women from states where abortion becomes illegal.

Twenty-six states are certain or likely to ban abortions if the court limits or overturns Roe, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which studies abortion rights.

More than 40 health care providers, women's rights groups and Democratic politicians formed the council in September after the Supreme Court refused to block a Texas law that effectively bans abortion at about six weeks and allows people to sue doctors or others who have helped a woman end a pregnancy after fetal cardiac activity can be detected.

The Guttmacher Institute predicted in September that as many as 1.4 million women may drive in to California for abortion services if neighboring states outlaw or severely limit access to the procedure. That estimate doesn't include women who might fly to the West Coast for abortions.

When the new Texas law took effect in September, Planned Parenthood clinics in California began treating two to three Texans per day, said Brandon Richards, a spokesperson for the clinics.

"We started to see an immediate impact on our health centers in California," Richards said.

Reporting by Sharon Bernstein Editing by Colleen Jenkins and David Gregorio

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