Health: California governor’s ad campaign offers help to women in anti-abortion states

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“Need an abortion? California is ready to help.”

Photograph: Michael R Blood/AP © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Michael R Blood/AP

That’s one of the billboard advertisements that California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, is paying to display across seven of America’s most aggressively anti-abortion states, including Texas, Mississippi, Ohio, South Carolina and South Dakota.

The advertising blitz in states outside California is being funded by Newsom’s re-election campaign for governor – Newsom is expected to easily win re-election in November in his deep blue state. But the move is renewing questions about the Democratic politician’s national ambitions.

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A recent poll found that the majority of California voters do not think Joe Biden should run for re-election in 2024, and that Newsom was one of the leading contenders to replace him.

The California governor has repeatedly denied having any interest in running for president, while simultaneously paying for high-profile ad campaigns in states outside the one in which he is running for office. In July, he launched a television ad campaign in Florida, where the Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, is considered a leading replacement for Trump in the 2024 Republican presidential race, focused on the state’s attacks against LBGTQ+ people, book bans and abortion restrictions.

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This week, Newsom also asked the US attorney general to investigate the governors of Texas and Florida for transporting migrants across the country to wealthy Democratic enclaves such as Washington DC, and Martha’s Vineyard, in what has widely been criticised as a political stunt.

The messaging in many of Newsom’s new abortion ads is sharply critical of Republicans’ successful efforts to ban abortion, with phrases like, “Texas does not own your body. You do,” and an image of a woman with her hands cuffed behind her back.

The 18 billboards point viewers to a new California state-funded website, abortion.ca.gov, which offers guidance on how people outside California can access abortion care in the state, an effort that Planned Parenthood’s California affiliate praised as a good model for increasing abortion access.

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“Here is my message to any woman seeking abortion care in these anti-freedom states: come to California,” Newsom said in a statement announcing the campaign, saying that abortion bans “are literally killing women”.

On his personal Twitter account, Newsom launched the ad campaign by tagging seven anti-abortion Republican governors in tweets showing images of the billboards.

“The people of Mississippi deserve to know they have access to the care you are refusing to provide. This will be launching in your state today,” he told the Mississippi governor, Tate Reeves.

The Newsom campaign noted that it expects the Mississippi billboards could face a legal challenge in the state. A spokesperson for Reeves told the Washington Post that it was “interesting to see Governor Newsom’s 2024 primary campaign extend to Mississippi” and that they thought most residents “will not be interested in what he’s selling”.

Newsom himself told the Washington Post that he had launched the abortion ad campaign “because the people that support my candidacy support this. And when many heard about this, they wanted to support additional efforts like it, to be fully transparent with you.”

Polls show that Newsom is expected to cruise to victory over his little-known Republican opponent in the California governor’s race this November, after triumphing over an expensive attempt to recall him as governor in 2021.

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