By MARINA VILLENEUVE
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York has expanded legal protections for people seeking and providing abortions in the state under legislation signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday.
The Democratic governor pushed for the laws in anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court potentially overruling its 1973 Roe v. Wade’s decision, which established a constitutional right to abortion. A ruling that could weaken or end abortion protections is expected as early as this week, and abortion providers are worried New York will see a surge in out-of-state residents.
“Today, we are taking action to protect our service providers from the retaliatory actions of anti-abortion states and ensure that New York will always be a safe harbor for those seeking reproductive healthcare,” Hochul said.
Out-of-state residents accounted for nearly 9% — or 7,000 out of roughly 79,000 abortions — performed in New York in 2019, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s up from 5% — or roughly 4,700 out of 93,000 — in 2015.
One new law protects abortion providers from arrest, extradition and legal proceedings in other states by forbidding New York state and local courts and law enforcement agencies from cooperating in most scenarios.
Under another law, people could sue for unlawful interference with their right to reproductive health care when other people or entities bring civil or criminal charges against them for seeking, accessing or providing abortions.
And at a time when patients can receive virtual care, another new law will prevent insurers from taking action against New York health care providers who perform reproductive services that are illegal elsewhere.
The state’s health commissioner will also study the unmet health needs of pregnant women and the impact of unlicensed centers that offer some pregnancy services and persuade women against abortion.
The laws protecting abortion providers and care take effect immediately.
In 90 days, another new law will begin allowing abortion providers and patients to participate in an existing state program that lets people shield their address.
The National Abortion Federation says death threats against abortion providers more than doubled from 92 in 2019 to 200 in 2020.
Hochul also plans to give abortion providers $35 million to expand services and boost security for abortion providers because of the expected Supreme Court ruling.
Lawmakers enshrined Roe v. Wade into state law in 2019, and Hochul wants to enshrine it in the state constitution.
The state constitution prohibits discrimination based on “race, color, creed or religion.”
Civil liberties groups and abortion providers have proposed an amendment prohibiting discrimination based on factors ranging from “pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes” to sex and gender identity.
The Legislature must approve any amendment in two legislative session years before sending it to voters.
Lawmakers would likely need to start the process in August to send it to voters in 2023.
“I can’t say that’ll happen, but I’m open minded, ” Hochul said Monday.
New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said “right-wing” critics are stalling passage by arguing the proposed amendment would infringe religious liberties.
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