New York Passes Legislation to Create Abortion Sanctuary

By: - June 6, 2022 12:00 am

A clinician prepares an operating room at a women’s health clinic. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said she will sign legislation that would establish the state as a haven for people who want access to abortion. Tony Gutierrez/The Associated Press

With weeks to go before the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to overturn its landmark Roe v. Wade decision ensuring the right to abortion, New York is the latest blue state to pass new laws in anticipation of an influx of patients from states poised to ban the procedure.

New York lawmakers passed a package of bills, which Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul has said she will sign, that would establish the state as a haven for people who want access to abortion, whether they live in the state or not.

But lawmakers stopped short of passing a proposed equal rights amendment to the state’s constitution that would guarantee a right to abortion. So far, Vermont is the only state whose legislature has passed a proposed constitutional right to abortion, which will be on the ballot in November. New York’s 2022 legislative session ended last week.

“This legislation will protect reproductive health care providers in New York from states looking to impose their policies on New Yorkers and punish providers beyond their borders,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, said in a June 2 statement.

In addition to ensuring certain legal protections for abortion providers and preventing law enforcement from cooperating with out-of-state agencies, the legislation would prohibit medical malpractice insurance companies from taking adverse actions against providers who care for nonresidents.

To address potential violence against abortion providers and others, the legislation would allow health professionals and their family members, volunteers and patients to participate in the state’s Address Confidentiality Program.

The program allows people to have a designated address to receive mail instead of using the address where they live. Mail sent to the substitute address is processed by the state and forwarded to the confidential location of the participant.

Hochul announced in May a million grant to expand abortion provider capacity. The grant also will be used to ensure the safety of abortion providers and their patients.

“I will never stop fighting to make New York a safe harbor for all who need care and a blueprint for other states to follow,” Hochul said in a statement.

New York and 15 other states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington—and the District of Columbia have laws enshrining the right to abortion, according to reproductive health care advocates the Guttmacher Institute.

Many Republican legislatures have been enacting abortion restrictions, with Oklahoma last month becoming the first state to effectively ban abortion. About 36 million women of reproductive age live in states that are expected to ban the procedure after the Supreme Court decision.

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Christine Vestal

Christine Vestal covers mental health and drug addiction for Stateline. Previously, she covered health care for McGraw-Hill and the Financial Times.