Los Angeles Daily News: With abortion ‘right on the ballot,’ Sen. Alex Padilla finds audience in LA

By Julianna Lozada

Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California, joined a chorus of Los Angeles-area abortion rights advocates, leaders and workers on Friday, July 29, in defense of a “fundamental right” that he said must be protected in the wake of the U.S. Supreme’s Court decision last month overturning the landmark case that once enshrined that right.

“In California, we believe that access to abortion is a fundamental right,” said Padilla, who was joined by Sue Dunlap, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, and Celinda Vasquez, Chief External Officer of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles.

Padilla toured the Los Angeles Planned Parenthood Headquarters on 30th Street, meeting with advocates, employees, and volunteers. But it was a walk-through that came amid the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s historic majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade and 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decisions.

Roe and Casey had upheld a right to an abortion, protected by the U.S. Constitution. But in Dobbs, the Court left the decision decision on the legality of abortion to individual state legislatures — fracturing nearly 50 years of what many thought was settled law.

But Padilla, member of the Senate Judiciary Committee — tasked with advancing, or not, nominees to the federal bench — echoed major pushback on the decision.

“The right to an abortion and the right to reproductive care services should not depend on what state you live in,” he said. “Your rights, your access, should not end at the state border. It should not rely on your income level, what kind of transportation you may or may not have, or whether you can take time off of work or not.”

Since the June 24th Dobbs decision, 12 majority-GOP states have put forth near-total or six-week bans on abortion. Eventually half of U.S. states are expected to ban or seriously restrict the procedure, according to the Associated Press.

The decision by the court’s conservative majority led roughly a dozen states to shut down or severely restrict abortions within days. Eventually half of U.S. states are expected to ban or seriously restrict the procedure.

It’s also sparked significant changes in other kinds of medical care, with some doctors declining immediate treatment for serious health problems related to reproductive care for fear of running afoul of strict abortion bans.

Despite this, on June 24, Governor Gavin Newsom reaffirmed the right to an abortion in California by signing AB 1666, which protects California residents from civil liability for “providing, aiding, or receiving” abortions or reproductive care in the state. Abortion is legal in California until viability, generally considered to be around 24 weeks.

However, abortion rights activists have criticized congressional Democrats for not enshrining the right to abortion into federal law when given the opportunity to during the Clinton and Obama presidencies.

President Joe Biden has said he cannot, on his own, restore access to abortion nationwide. He has called on voters to elect to Congress this fall a sufficient number of Democrats who could then vote to codify the rights of Roe v. Wade. But his administration has come under significant pressure from advocacy groups to use his executive powers, including declaring a public health emergency on abortion.

That didn’t stop local leaders from encouraging Padilla to defend reproductive rights.

“So grateful to Senator Padilla for his leadership as an elected official, even when we’re in this time where we see laws that are nothing less than cruel being enacted across this country,” said Dunlap, who was named CEO of Planned Parenthood in 2014. “This is a horrible moment in our history. It’s a crucial moment when it comes to those who experience pregnancy, and reproductive healthcare, which is frankly all of us in one way or another. And at the same time, I’m so grateful for those who show up and are in this fight until we not only get the protections of Roe v. Wade back, but we build on that and do more for all of the communities we serve.”

Padilla is a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, guaranteeing the right to abortion access services in the United States. He also introduced the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act of 2022, which forbids states in which an abortion ban is in effect from limiting travel for the purposes of receiving abortion services.

Some Congressional Republicans are pushing for a nationwide abortion ban at 15 weeks through a reintroduction of “The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act”, which currently reads a 20-week ban on abortion.

And despite polls showing a majority of Americans back a federal right, many top Republicans have been eager to lean into the fight against abortion rights, seeing the overturning of Roe as a promise they kept to voters.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested even before the Supreme Court’s ruling that a future nationwide ban was “possible.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence said after the ruling that “we must not rest and must not relent until the sanctity of life is restored to the center of American law in every state in the land.”

The aftermath of Dobbs then has also become a pivot point toward the ballot box in November. It was clear on Friday that Padilla was seeking to mobilize voters on the issue.

Padilla on Friday spoke to the disillusionment that some might feel at the ballot box this coming November, reminding voters that “every election matters,” pointing to whoever’s in the majority determines which judges are nominated and confirmed to judicial bodies.

“I do encourage every American to make their voice heard, not just through legislative advocacy, not just at marches and rallies, those are important, but especially at the ballot box to ensure that this generation of women and future generations of women don’t have less rights than their mothers and grandmothers,” said Padilla.

Dunlop echoed Padilla.

“Roe v. Wade is on the ballot, whether you’re literally voting for that or not, you are voting for democracy and you are voting for freedom,” Dunlap expressed.

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