Santa Cruz already seeing out-of-state abortion patients as Planned Parenthood ramps up regional services

The downtown Santa Cruz offices of Planned Parenthood
The downtown Santa Cruz offices of Planned Parenthood.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Officials in Planned Parenthood’s Mar Monte region are preparing for 250 to 500 out-of-state patients seeking abortions each year across its 35 centers. Two of those centers, in Watsonville and downtown Santa Cruz, are expected to see some of those patients, but it’s not clear to officials just how many. Each site is seeking to hire one full-time provider. 

Have something to say? Lookout welcomes letters to the editor, within our policies, from readers. Guidelines here.

Planned Parenthood centers across the United States, including in Santa Cruz County, are preparing to ramp up the number of clients they receive from states that ban abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday.

How much of an influx will Planned Parenthood centers in blue states like California see? All expect new clients, with the number varying depending mainly on location and accessibility.

Planned Parenthood’s Mar Monte division includes Santa Cruz County among 35 centers throughout mid-California and northern Nevada, including Bakersfield at its southernmost point and Reno as its only Nevada site. In total, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte serves 220,000 adults and children.

The Mar Monte region saw the number of patients from out of state more than double between July 2021 and June 2022, Head of Strategic Communications Andrew Adams told Lookout on Monday. One-third of those patients came from Texas, he said, and all of those Texas patients visited the region’s centers after the implementation of Senate Bill 8, a Texas abortion-restriction law that went into effect Sept. 1.

“So in terms of predicting the number of patients we are going to see and where they’re going to come in the Planned Parenthood Mar Monte universe, we have that kind of historical record,” Adams said. “And we can say, for example, that our health centers in the Bay Area and Sacramento definitely see more out-of-state patients than our health center in Bakersfield.”

One reason people might be going to those centers is because the Bay Area and Sacramento locations are close to larger airports, he said, and perhaps those people also have friends there to support them.

Santa Cruz County is home to two centers: Planned Parenthood Watsonville and the downtown Santa Cruz location, which is formally called Planned Parenthood Westside.

Adams said while it’s not clear how many patients from out of state will come to the Mar Monte region’s centers in the next year, Planned Parenthood is preparing to provide abortion services to an additional 250 to 500 new patients in total across all Mar Monte locations.

Forecasting how many red-state refugees Santa Cruz County will see is difficult, but it’s clear that out-of-state patients have already arrived at those doorsteps.

“We already have seen a good number of patients from out of state come to the Santa Cruz location,” said Adams. “That number will only grow no doubt.”

Between July 2020 and June 2021, all Mar Monte providers performed 20,090 abortions. Of those, 70% of were medication abortions, via pill, and 30% were on-site, surgical abortions.

Jessica Dieseldorff, the Mar Monte region’s senior program manager of abortion services, said that many people coming to California by car would likely arrive at centers like the Bakersfield location. Dieseldorff shared her experience and her trepidation about the near future in an op-ed for Lookout on Sunday.

She has worked as a nurse practitioner for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte for 24 years and has also provided training for advanced-practice clinicians to do in-center procedure abortion. She said a lot of her training has focused on clinicians from centers in the Central Valley — Fresno, Bakersfield and Merced, as well as Stockton, Sacramento and Tracy.

“The Central Valley has always been an area of high need and lower access,” she said. “So we’re constantly working to hire staff and train in those places.”

Dieseldorff, who works primarily at the Watsonville location, said each locations has four staffers licensed to provide abortions. Both the Watsonville and downtown Santa Cruz locations are hiring one full-time provider position, which would bring each center to full staffing.

At the moment, she said, the local centers, paired with nearby Planned Parenthood locations, are providing adequate access to people needing abortions.

“Right now, if you happen to live in Santa Cruz County, you have relatively relatively good access to multiple places where you can have an abortion,” she said. “So you have not only Westside and Watsonville, but with a short drive, you can be at the San Jose or Seaside location, or even Gilroy and Salinas.”

Latest Stories

Follow Lookout on social media