Abortion is legal in California but Central Valley residents face an issue: geography

·3 min read

While abortion remains legal in California, the 3,070,000 people in the Central Valley have few options when it comes to reproductive health.

One of the biggest speedbumps is geography.

The Fresno and Bakersfield communities have limited access to in-clinic abortions, both clinics are smaller with fewer resources than locations in Southern and Northern California. Residents in Tulare and Kings counties — as well as rural portions of Kern County — have to travel up to 100 miles in order to receive care.

"It is true that Tulare County and Kings counties just don't have a lot of resources," said Lauren Babb, vice president of public affairs at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte.

For example, Tulare County residents have to drive nearly 100 miles round trip, nearly two hours total, to Fresno in order to receive an in-clinic abortion. Another option is Bakersfield, which would be 150 miles round trip, about three hours total.

A Valley home shows support for Planned Parenthood. While abortion remains legal in California, the 3,070,000 people in the Central Valley have few options when it comes to reproductive health.
A Valley home shows support for Planned Parenthood. While abortion remains legal in California, the 3,070,000 people in the Central Valley have few options when it comes to reproductive health.

Residents in rural areas throughout California have to travel even farther for care. People living in Ridgecrest, a rural area home to just 30,000 people, have to drive more than 100 miles, around two hours, to Bakersfield in order to get an abortion.

"When you really talk about access, they (people living in the Central Valley), know what it's like to not have access to health care,” Babb said.

Here are a few more examples throughout the Central Valley:

  • Coalinga: 100 miles roundtrip, around 2 hours to Fresno

  • Mariposa: 100 miles roundtrip, around 2 hours to Fresno

  • Merced: 75 miles roundtrip, a little over 1 hour to Modesto

  • Pixley: 85 miles roundtrip, around 1.5 hours to Bakersfield

  • Strathmore: 100 miles roundtrip, around 2 hours to Bakersfield

  • Porterville: 95 miles round trip, a little under 2 hours to Bakersfield

  • Kernville: 80 miles roundtrip, a little under 1.5 hours to Bakersfield

And, while some Central Valley areas have clinics, not all sites offer abortions.

Visalia's Planned Parenthood clinic off Stevenson Street has been around for over a decade and is often busy. Prior to the pandemic, the clinic served about 2,000 patients annually, 75% of whom are low-income.

When the city announced plans of approving another Planned Parenthood site in town, pro-life community members spoke out, despite Tulare County reporting the fourth-highest teen pregnancy rate in California.

Eventually, developers with the Orosco Group pulled out of the Planned Parenthood Expansion Project in March amid the growing controversy — even though the clinic would not be performing on-site abortions.

The clinic is still looking to expand its services in Tulare County, Babb confirmed.

Planned Parenthood provides numerous services, including abortion, birth control, HIV services, men's health care, emergency contraception, pregnancy testing and services, primary care, STD testing, treatment and vaccines, transgender hormone therapy as well as women's health care.

"It's a really sad day... but I wouldn't want to be anywhere else," Babb said. "Everyone that works in this line of work is incredibly resolute... we're going to fight like hell to make sure people have access."

Lauren Jennings covers education and news for the Visalia Times-Delta/Tulare Advance-Register. Follow her on Twitter @lolojennings. Get alerts and keep up on all things Tulare County for as little as $1 a month. Subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Visalia Times-Delta: Abortion is legal in California; Central Valley residents face access issues