Santa Clara County funds abortion services as law is threatened

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Santa Clara County officials will invest millions into local Planned Parenthood facilities to expand services, as the U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to overturn abortion rights.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to give Planned Parenthood Mar Monte $3 million to expand services, renovate its clinics and create a telehealth behavioral health program—anticipating an increase in out-of-state patients who will be unable to receive reproductive health services where they live. Planned Parenthood Mar Monte is the largest Planned Parenthood in California.

The money comes as local reproductive health clinics see an increase in patients coming from states such as Texas, Alabama, Georgia and Florida—where abortion rights have been curtailed.

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Supervisors Cindy Chavez and Susan Ellenberg announced the funding proposal Monday—hours before news outlet Politico broke the story on the leaked draft opinion indicating the Supreme Court will likely overturn the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade decision. The decision has guaranteed the right to abortions for close to 50 years.

“Today’s vote lifts up the fact that women can make health decisions with their doctors, and that women in our community have the opportunity to plan their families,” Chavez told after the vote, adding it’s dehumanizing for some state laws banning abortions to not make exceptions in cases of rape and incest. “The importance of these services cannot be understated for the physical and mental health of these women.”

The one-time fund will help Planned Parenthood move the Blossom Hill Health Center and the Mar Monte Community Clinic on Alvin Avenue into their new locations in San Jose. The money is expected to fund some renovations at the sites and the construction of a training facility. The upgrade is estimated to take between six to nine months, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte CEO Stacy Cross said. The current clinics will remain open in the meantime.

According to Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, the new Blossom Hill center could serve more than 16,000 patients in its first year after the expansion—a 10% increase from the current number of patients served annually. The Mar Monte Community Clinic is anticipating an additional 500 visits annually. The clinic currently serves more than 8,100 patients a year.

Santa Clara County is investing millions of dollars into local Planned Parenthood facilities as the Supreme Court is poised to overturn abortion rights. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

Between last July and March, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte has served 80 out-of-state patients seeking abortions, including 22 who traveled from Texas after the state enacted the most restrictive abortion law in the country, banning most abortions.

In San Jose, nearly two-thirds of Planned Parenthood patients are people of color. More than half have a family income below $26,000 a year.

“If Roe v. Wade is overturned, it will not eliminate abortions but it will largely eliminate access to safe abortions, particularly to women of color with lower incomes, in much of our country,” Ellenberg told after the vote. “We must take no right for granted, and we must be vigilant in standing up for those who are directly impacted.”

Planned Parenthood Mar Monte is expecting an influx of new patients after news broke about the planned overturn of Roe v. Wade—including 200 to 500 additional out-of-state patients a week seeking abortions.

“Folks are scared,” Lauren Babb, vice president of public affairs at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, told “We’re preparing to see more patients. We know there will be great needs and we’ll be there to support them.”

Santa Clara County has ramped up its support to the local Planned Parenthood facilities since 2016, Chavez said. County and San Jose officials stepped up to help fund local facilities when they were poised to lose nearly half a million dollars in federal funding.

“Both the city and the county invested in Planned Parenthood to make sure that the poor folks in our community have had access to not only reproductive health care, but also health care in general,” Chavez said.

The county has plans to continue working with Planned Parenthood to assess the impact at the local level if abortion rights get rolled back. Chavez said she’s also concerned about access to education for health care workers.

Cayce Hill, executive director of Veggielution and member of Sí Se Puede collective, urged county leaders to pass the funding at the meeting.

“The county’s commitment to equity must continue to be centered on the provision of safe, efficient and effective reproductive health care services for all,” Hill said. “The disturbing current political and legal contexts make this matter even more urgent.”

Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.

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