COUNTY WILL USE LEGAL TOOLS TO PROTECT REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS
“Overturning Roe will disproportionately affect those who already face barriers to accessing care,” Simitian says
SAN JOSE – The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors today reaffirmed its support for reproductive freedom and abortion rights, and unanimously approved a proposal from County Supervisor Joe Simitian directing the County Counsel’s Office to take legal action as may be necessary to protect the right to choose.
“In the nearly 50 years that reproductive rights and freedoms have been constitutionally protected, they’ve never been more at risk,” said Simitian, referring to the leaked draft decision from Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which signaled that the U.S. Supreme Court appears ready to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“It seems likely that the era in which individuals can rely on a Constitutional guarantee to access the full range of reproductive health services is coming to an end. This will have a disproportionate impact on those who already face barriers to accessing care,” he said.
Simitian added, “Our County should take any and all prudent steps to protect these rights for the benefit of our residents, and to the benefit of folks across the country.”
- Calls on County Counsel to take such legal action and/or other steps as is necessary to preserve a woman's right to choose;
- Directs County Administration to report to the Board at the earliest opportunity so that the County can be on record in support of efforts to enshrine the right to choose in the California Constitution and/or relevant state legislation; and,
- Directs County Counsel to report to the Health and Hospital Committee at the first meeting following publication of the Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization with information regarding the updated legal status of the right to choose in the U.S.
“If the protection of these rights is to be determined judicially, then our County Counsel’s Office is perhaps the most potent tool we have at our disposal,” Simitian said. “If the debate plays out in the form of administrative rulemaking, we will want to comment and engage robustly and effectively. And if the forum is legislative, our Board will want to weigh in as early and effectively as we can.”
“Community Health Partnership applauds this effort, and implores the Board of Supervisors to take proactive legal action to protect the reproductive rights and freedoms of Californians,” said Dolores Alvarado, Chief Executive Officer of Community Health Partnership.
“The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will result in denied essential reproductive health services to women, immigrants, communities of color, and those who are low-income. It will not only have far-reaching community health and social implications, but further exacerbate health inequities,” said Alvarado.
Around the nation, state legislation seeking to restrict access to reproductive health care is likely to be forthcoming once a formal decision is issued in the Dobbs case. This may include legislation that would ban abortion from the moment of conception; laws containing no exemptions for rape or incest; prohibitions without an exception for a woman’s own health and safety; even legislation that would ban residents from traveling out of state to access abortion services.
Simitian’s referral directs County Counsel to track such legislation and associated litigation and join amicus briefs in support of laws that uphold reproductive freedom and in opposition to laws that would restrict reproductive freedom.
“The Dobbs decision will likely prompt legal action across the country at every level of government. This both creates a need and opportunity to strengthen our partnership with the County and help protect the right to reproductive health care services both within and beyond the County’s borders,” said Stacy M. Cross, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte. “We applaud the County for taking any and every practical legislative and legal action necessary to preserve access to essential reproductive health care services.”
The County has a well-established history of providing and protecting access to reproductive health care and reproductive freedoms. In late 2021, the County unanimously supported women's reproductive health rights with a resolution brought forward by Simitian. Since then, the Board of Supervisors has directed County staff to provide funding for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte (which serves Santa Clara County) in anticipation of increases in patients traveling to California for reproductive health services.
In June 2019, at Simitian’s urging, the Board approved a partnership with Planned Parenthood Mar Monte to augment health care services in the North County, and to improve care coordination for shared patients of Planned Parenthood and the County’s health care system.
Later that same year, the Board allocated almost $500,000 to replace Title X funding lost as a result of new federal rules that penalized organizations that made referrals to access abortion services.