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New York expands abortion protections ahead of imminent decision from Supreme Court

New York patients and providers protected from arrest, extradition and legal action from anti-abortion states

Alex Woodward
New York
Tuesday 14 June 2022 18:49 BST
New York expands abortion protections ahead of Roe ruling, Governor Hochul announces

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has fortified legal protections for abortion patients in the state, which the governor intends to be a “safe harbor” for people seeking an abortion as the US Supreme Court appears ready to overturn constitutional protections for abortion access, which could quickly or immediately become illegal in roughly half the US.

The governor said “the women of New York will never be subjected to government-mandated pregnancies” after signing several new protective measures into law on 13 June.

“Not here. Not now. Not ever,” she said.

New York is among states that have codified abortion access protected under the <em>Roe v Wade </em>ruling with passage of the state’s Reproductive Health Act in 2019.

The new legislative package includes legal protections for abortion providers and out-of-state patients seeking an abortion in New York, which would block state courts from pursuing cases related to anti-abortion laws in other states.

The state will protect abortion providers from arrest, extradition and legal action in other states by prohibiting state and local courts and law enforcement from cooperating with anti-abortion cases in those states.

Another law allows people to sue for unlawful interference with their right to abortion care if they face civil or criminal charges for seeking or providing abortions.

The state also will prevent health insurance providers from taking action against New York-based providers who provide reproductive health services that are illegal in other states.

Another measure orders the state’s Health Department to commission a study on the needs of pregnant people in the state and the impact of so-called crisis pregnancy centres, nonmedical facilities intended to dissuade people from seeking an abortion.

What the US Supreme Court leak means for Roe v Wade and abortion rights in America

In 1970, the state was among a handful of states to repeal their anti-abortion laws before the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe, which affirms constitutional protections for abortion care and prohibits states from eliminating access before fetal viability at roughly 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

A leaked draft opinion in Dobbs vs Jackson Women’s Health Organization signals that the court will uphold the Mississippi law at the centre of the case, banning abortion at 15 weeks of pregnancy, and overturn the landmark Roe decision and its affirming ruling in 1992’s Planned Parenthood v Casey.

The Supreme Court’s formal opinion in the Dobbs case is expected within the coming days.

The end of Roe protections would “trigger” state laws banning abortion care in at least 13 states, while several other states have moved to outlaw abortions at six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant, and impose other restrictions that effectively outlaw abortions and criminalise providers.

“Taking away the right to safe and legal abortion care will harm women’s health and relegate women to second-class citizens with no right to bodily autonomy,” New York State Senate Democratic Majority Leader Andrew Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. “We will once again lead the way to guarantee reproductive rights and protect New York women from harmful policies implemented around the country.”

The bills signed into law by Governor Hochul “will ensure that the medical professionals that provide these critical and lifesaving practices are protected from retaliation by states that are restricting those rights,” according to New York House Speaker Carl Heastie.

New York Attorney General Letitia James and state legislators have also proposed creating a state fund to pay abortion providers and assist low-income and uninsured or underinsured abortion patients seeking care.

Governor Hochul also said she supports a proposed constitutional amendment that would enshrine the right to abortion access in the state. That stronger level of protection would first have to pass through the state legislature before voters decide whether to approve it.

Four states and Washington DC have codified the right to abortion protections, while 12 states explicitly permit abortion care, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

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