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By MARINA VILLENEUVE
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York will give abortion providers $35 million to expand services and boost security in anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court possibly overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Tuesday.
The Democrat said the state must get ready for a potential influx of out-of-state patients seeking abortions from the roughly half of U.S. states that are expected to ban or greatly restrict abortion if Roe is overturned.
“To truly ensure that anyone seeking an abortion in New York has access to them, we have to ensure that the providers have the resources and the capacity to accommodate all patients who walk through their doors,” Hochul said.
Abortion providers in New York and elsewhere have long faced safety fears: In Hochul’s hometown of Amherst, New York, an anti-abortion activist fatally shot Dr. Barnett Slepian through a window in his home on Oct. 23, 1998.
Hochul’s office said she’ll use an emergency Department of Health fund to provide $25 million in grants and reimbursements to abortion providers, including increasing access to services, while the remaining $10 million for security upgrades at abortion providers and reproductive health centers will come from from the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services, which is part of the state’s executive branch.
“I consider this an emergency and I’m going to make sure that that money is available the second the decision comes down,” she said.
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Monday that she backed a similar proposal to provide $50 million in funding for abortion providers.
A leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would throw out the landmark 1973 abortion rights ruling has spurred Democratic leaders in several states to consider steps to increase access to abortion services. A final ruling is not expected until the end of the court’s term in late June or early July.
In February, Oregon launched a $15 million fund to provide grants to Oregon nonprofits to expand access to abortions. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, proposed a budget that includes $68 million for reproductive health care services including abortion providers.
Hochul is also backing a proposed state constitutional amendment to guarantee abortion rights and prohibit discrimination based on factors from race to “pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes.” That amendment would need to be approved by the state legislature in two legislative session years and then be approved by voters.
In Vermont, voters this fall will consider an abortion rights amendment to the state constitution. Connecticut, Michigan and Colorado are facing calls for similar amendments, while states like Iowa, Kansas and Kentucky are considering amendments restricting abortion rights.
Other states, including Connecticut and Washington, have also taken steps to shield providers from possible lawsuits as people seek abortions across state lines.
New York and its Democratic-led Legislature have expanded abortion rights in recent years by allowing more abortions after 24 weeks, removing abortion from the state’s penal code and allowing access to medication abortion services through telemedicine visits.
This year, lawmakers used the state budget to pass a law enshrining existing regulations that require every insurance plan to cover all types of abortion, regardless of reason. That law has been the subject of an ongoing legal challenge by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.
Hochul on Tuesday also called for an end to a U.S. law prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortions except in scenarios including rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. New York is one of 16 states where Medicaid pays for all or most abortions in cases where they’re deemed medically necessary, according to abortion-rights supporting Guttmacher Institute.
Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said that even New York’s protections could be vulnerable in a court battle.
“We should not harbor any illusions that the agenda of the radical right is to ban abortion completely, to do it on the federal level, to do it state-by-state,” she said.
State GOP chair Nick Langworthy said the expected Supreme Court’s opinion won’t jettison abortion rights in New York and claimed Democrats are overblowing any potential impact.
Associated Press writers Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Wash. and Michelle Price in New York City contributed reporting.
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