Sonoma County health care and political leaders tell Thompson what it takes to protect access to reproductive services

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Local women’s health providers and community leaders told Rep. Mike Thompson on Friday that the overturn of Roe v. Wade has had a chilling effect on women seeking health care services.

A panel discussion hosted by Thompson, D-St. Helena brought together leaders from across Sonoma County to discuss the issues they have seen. One of which, they said, is the need for more funding for educational programs so women know what health care options are available.

“We want to make sure everyone knows their rights and how to act on them,” said Gaby Bernal, executive director of the Santa Rosa Community Health Center. “Financing health education is extremely important.”

Dr. Rebecca Katz, director of the Petaluma Health Center’s primary care site, joined others in telling Thompson that they were working hard to make contraceptives available, as Joanne M. Brown, a member of the Sonoma County State of Women said she is concerned more young women will get pregnant because they are afraid to go to clinics.

There was also agreement that women of color, particularly immigrants and the poor or homeless, would be hit the hardest in the post-Roe era.

“Reproductive care decisions should be made by a woman in consultation with her doctor, her family and her faith,” Thompson said. “The extreme decision in Dobbs v. Jackson has removed a nearly 50-year precedent, taking away from Americans the freedom to make their own health care decisions.”

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Cheryl Jackson, executive director of the Sonoma Valley Community Center, said she once “lived during the prime of being a woman.”

Now that has changed.

“We were struggling to make a profit; now we are struggling to maintain,” she added.

She believes the high court decision, and claims that moving to ban abortion, is having a chilling effect in that other rights, such as the right to use contraception, may be lost next.

Margaret Martinez Franks, public affairs representative for Northern California Planned Parenthood, told Thompson that “people who need our services have lost trust. There has to be a major change at the national level for something to change in terms of people seeking health services at the local level.”

Thompson listened to the women’s suggestions, including a request to form an association to work toward the same goals, telling them, “I’m just a phone call away.”

She said she has been fighting for more health care funding now that COVID funding is evaporating, and has voted for bills to ensure women’s right to reproductive freedom and to use contraception. contraceptives.

Amid seismic aftershocks from the Supreme Court’s June decision to strike down the constitutional right to abortion, Democrats have seen their chances of keeping their majority in Congress begin to improve, with a political opening especially on the debate over how to respond in the post-Roe era.

A new Pew Research Center poll showed that abortion is a “very important” priority for 71% of Democratic voters, an increase from 46% in March.

Democrats running in the special election following the Supreme Court decision were fueled by turnout based on voters’ views on reproductive rights.

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Planned Parenthood and some local health services expect to see an increase in the number of women seeking services in other states where abortion is prohibited, or will be prohibited (there could be as many as 26 according to political estimates).

Franks said Planned Parenthood has already been serving patients from Nevada and Texas, and they expect demand to increase by 3,000%.

Asked by Thompson if there will be “any problem with California being a safe harbor” for women seeking abortions, Bernal said she would welcome women from other states.

“I’m more concerned that we can’t help women who need it,” she said.

You can contact staff writer Kathleen Coates at [email protected] or 707-521-5209.