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Arizona patients looking for abortion services are finding them in San Diego

Arizona tourists show up in San Diego when it’s hot in summer and when they want to visit the beach.

But now some will be coming to get a legal abortion.

Twenty-six states are promising to ban abortion now that the Supreme Court made it possible with last week’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade.


Experts says that will force even more people to seek abortions in neighboring states, like California, where the procedure remains legal.

Dr. Toni Marengo, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, which operates San Diego family planning clinics. Undated photo.
Courtesy of Planned Parenthood
Dr. Toni Marengo, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, is seen in this undated photo.

A study from UCLA’s Center on Reproductive Health, Law, and Policy, estimates that that between 8,000 and 16,000 additional people will now travel to California each year for abortions.

Dr. Toni Marengo, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, told KPBS’s Midday Edition that the influx of out-of-state people seeking abortions has already started.

“So from the Friday, before the SCOTUS decision, to the day of the decision on Friday, we had 100% more abortions booked,” said Marengo. “Not all of them from Arizona. But I think it was really a wake-up call. And I think patients in Arizona weren’t really sure what they were going to do.”

The Center for Reproductive Health study said that proximity is a primary determinant in where people go to have an abortion. Phoenix is only a five-hour drive from San Diego.


In Arizona, Planned Parenthood has stopped providing abortions for now, given the confusion around state law following the Supreme Court’s decision.

“We are trying to unravel a tangled web of abortion restrictions and laws,” said Brittany Fonteno, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Arizona. “There are so many conflicting laws on the books. Right now we’re kind of in a state of chaos in Arizona.”

She said, for instance, the state has a 1901 territorial law that would criminalize the provision of abortion services. She said a court injunction against those old laws, created right after Roe v. Wade, will prevent them from being re-enforced.

But a bill recently passed by the Arizona legislature and signed by the governor bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Fonteno said she expects Arizonans to travel to San Diego and Imperial counties for abortions.

“We have been working with Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, that has several health centers in the San Diego region including El Centro, and making sure that they have the capacity at their sites to support the influx of Arizonans, and probably other people from across the country who will be coming to them for care,” Fonteno said.

Politically, Arizona is a purple state. Republicans control the governor’s office and the state legislature, but only by slim margins.

So Fonteno is telling supporters of abortion rights to get out and vote this year, especially in the governor’s race. Members of organizations that support anti-abortion causes and candidates, did not return calls for comment.