Gavin Newsom erects billboards in red states advertising abortion services in California

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is escalating his feud with Republican-led states that have restricted access to abortion after the US Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this summer that rolled back the federal right to those services that was enshrined in the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

As part of his effort to make California a safe harbor for women seeking abortions, Newsom, a Democrat, launched a new state website earlier this week aimed at connecting women who live out of state with reproductive health care, including a tool that would help them find a provider and how to seek financial assistance for those services. On Thursday, he announced that his gubernatorial campaign has paid for 18 billboards advertising that site in seven states that have enacted abortion restrictions: Indiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas.

Touching on the privacy concerns many women in those states now face, Newsom, in a video announcing the new website abortion.ca.gov, noted that it will not track them or their personal information — as conservative lawmakers in some states weigh laws to prevent their state’s residents from seeking care across state lines.

In a statement announcing the billboards, Newsom said he had a message for “any woman seeking abortion care in these anti-freedom states: Come to California. We will defend your constitutional right to make decisions about your own health.”

“These un-American abortion bans — many of them without exceptions for rape and incest — are literally killing women. The idea that these Republican politicians are seeking to ‘protect life’ is a total farce. They are seeking to restrict and control their constituents and take away their freedom,” he added.

The new billboards feature provocative messages such as “Texas doesn’t own your body. You do,” along with the new website address. “Need an abortion? California is ready to help,” another billboard reads.

The effort by Newsom, who is widely viewed as a future White House contender, is just the latest salvo in his flashy campaign against red state counterparts like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who he has deemed a threat to fundamental human rights in this country. With no serious threat to his re-election prospects this November, Newsom has sought to raise his profile nationally with the help of the prodigious war chest that he built up while successfully warding off a recall last year.

He aired $105,000 of ads on Fox News starting on July 4 targeting DeSantis as he told Floridians that freedom was under attack in their state — citing DeSantis’ restrictive moves to ban books and curtail access to abortion as well as the ballot box — and inviting those who were bothered by the Florida governor’s maneuvers to decamp to California. He then pledged $100,000 to Charlie Crist, the Democratic nominee opposing DeSantis in November.

DeSantis has responded by calling attention to crime in California and some of the worst problems with homelessness in the nation.

From his political Twitter account on Tuesday, Newsom also noted the national stakes that have energized scores of moderate and progressive female voters ahead of the November elections as he drew attention to South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham’s new proposed national ban on abortion — providing a link to California’s new website as he argued that the GOP’s agenda is about “controlling women.”

Earlier this week, Graham introduced a bill that would limit abortion after 15 weeks with exceptions for rape, incest or life of the mother. The South Carolina senator’s move has divided the GOP caucus and complicated the path ahead for many candidates in his party who are seeking office in swing states where the majority of voters favor abortion rights. Many Republican senators, including Graham, have previously embraced the view that the decision on how to restrict abortion should be left to the states following the June Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

In California, which passed sweeping legal protections for both patients and providers who receive or offer abortion care after the June decision, Newsom is also advocating for and putting his financial weight behind a ballot measure that would amend the state constitution to guarantee the right to an abortion. In early September, the California Legislature also passed a package of about a dozen bills that would protect and expand access to abortion in the state.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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