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California measure would allow Arizona doctors to perform abortions as ban proceeds

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Lawmakers in Arizona's House of Representatives have passed legislation that would repeal an 1864 state ban on abortions that is currently set to take effect in the state this June. The state Senate could take up the new legislation as soon as next week, but for now, the Civil War-era ban on abortion in Arizona is why neighboring state California is moving swiftly to take up a proposal that gives Arizona's abortion providers and their patients a safe haven. Through the end of November, Arizona doctors will be able to apply for a temporary California medical license to provide abortion care to patients who travel from Arizona. In an exclusive interview with NPR, California's Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom laid out his plans for our co-host, A Martínez.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

What would have to happen, if, indeed, Governor, your bill goes through and you sign it, for clinics to be able to perform the procedure in California? Would they need more money? Would they need more resources, more staff? How would you address that?

GAVIN NEWSOM: Yeah, it's all of the above. And California's the size of 21 state populations combined, so you're dealing with a magnitude, but you're also dealing with a system that's well-established, relationships that are well-established, a provider-doctor network that's well-established, and that allows us to plug and play and actually move forward pretty quickly.

MARTÍNEZ: You have projected the state's budget deficit to be $38 billion. Where would the money for this bill come from?

NEWSOM: Well, we've already laid out a plan to balance the budget without impacting our existing supports, close to $240 million specifically for reproductive access, reproductive care. We actually established a website so people can actually seek some of those resources, particularly for uncompensated care and travel expenses, and we're now going to go out and seek additional grassroots support, on top of the tens of millions of dollars that we already have advanced that are secure regardless of the current situation with the budget.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. So Governor, if a resident of California says, why are we paying for something for a resident of Arizona, what would you tell them?

NEWSOM: Well, they're already paying. People are already coming over the border. We've already seen an increase in people getting care. A lot of it's uncompensated, and that's borne by the taxpayers. What we've already done is we've raised private money to address specifically the cost burdens that would probably take place. We already have provided private sector resources to address that concern.

MARTÍNEZ: Your political action committee, Campaign for Democracy, ran a TV ad in Alabama where two women are driving out of state. They get pulled over by a police officer, who is holding a pregnancy test, and then asks the driver to take it before handcuffing her over the hood of the car. Governor, unless that is a real scenario, how is that not gratuitous fearmongering of an issue that's already very serious?

NEWSOM: Just the opposite. The current attorney general of the state of Alabama said he wants to pursue criminal conspiracy charges for aiding and abetting people seeking reproductive care in the state of Alabama. This is about waking people up to what's not just happening in Alabama, but, as I said, what's happening in Oklahoma. It's a similar bill they're pursuing. In places like Tennessee, they're pursuing a similar legislation, so this is real life, folks.

MARTÍNEZ: So police officers would be able to ask women to take a pregnancy test on the side of the road?

NEWSOM: The legislation itself specifies a criminal offense for aiding and abetting someone leaving the state of Alabama, if the law went into effect that was introduced, so that ad, like many ads, highlight that scenario.

MARTÍNEZ: Governor, one day, Joe Biden will no longer be president. When that day comes, how interested would you be in becoming the Democratic Party's next presidential nominee?

NEWSOM: Oh, that's not even on my mind. We're doing everything to make sure our president gets reelected and make sure we do everything to stop the vandalism of our freedoms and rights. And I'll just remind people, you know, it's not just about access to reproductive care. It's access to contraception. It's about voting rights, civil rights, LGBTQ rights. It's about putting America in reverse, and we've got to stop that. And that's why the existential question in front of us in seven months is very real, and it's topical, and it's certainly top of my mind, and that's getting President Biden reelected.

MARTÍNEZ: That is California Governor Gavin Newsom. Governor, thanks.

NEWSOM: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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