A 50-year-old law restricting abortions to hospitals or hospital-related facilities in North Hempstead will be the topic of a public hearing at a board meeting next week, as officials seek to repeal the language in the town code.
Town officials said local laws must be scrutinized to protect the rights of women in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision last month to overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortions nationwide.
“Those women who are seeking an abortion today are doing so in an increasingly confusing and frightening climate, and I believe the Town of North Hempstead should not have provisions in the code that contribute to the confusion or that place an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose,” Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey, who proposed amending the code, told Newsday.
In 2019, out of 629,898 reported abortions in the country, 78,587 were performed in New York State, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Abortion Surveillance, which has documented the number and characteristics of women obtaining legally induced abortions since 1969.
The local law in Chapter 41A of North Hempstead’s town code titled “Pregnancy Termination Facilities” prohibits abortions in all places except “in a hospital having an obstetrical, gynecological or surgical service and having a valid operating certificate from the New York State Department of Health or in a suitably equipped and staffed facility administered by such hospital or in a suitably staffed and equipped facility having a hospital affiliation agreement acceptable to the State Hospital Review and Planning Council.”
If found guilty of breaking the law — a misdemeanor — violators could face a fine, not to exceed $1,000, or be jailed for no more than 15 days, or potentially both, according to the town code. However, since New York State legalized abortions in the 1970s, the state law does preempt any municipal code, officials noted, making the town code unenforceable.
“As a mother of two girls, I think it’s very important that the Town of North Hempstead removes this legislation from 1971 that is antiquated,” said Councilwoman Mariann Dalimonte.
According to a 1971 Newsday story, before passing the law that year, a spokesperson for former Town Supervisor Michael J. Tully said Tully feared that North Hempstead might face an influx of questionable abortion clinics if the town did not enact such a law. The legislation was passed shortly after a public hearing at which opponents spoke out against its implementation. North Hempstead was among several municipalities on Long Island to pass such laws.
At the time, the only known abortion clinic in the town was in the Village of Westbury, the article said.
Supervisor Jennifer DeSena expressed support to amend the town’s law.
“The chapter of town code that deals with zoning restrictions relative to certain medical procedures is obsolete and unenforceable, as it has been superseded by state law,” DeSena said Tuesday in a statement. “I am supportive of this proposed ordinance, which would bring North Hempstead’s Town Code into conformity with state law.”
The hearing is at 7 p.m. Aug. 4 at Town Hall, 220 Plandome Rd. in Manhasset.