Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Monday that she is directing state agencies to launch a "public information campaign" regarding New York's abortion and reproductive laws. Credit: NY Governor's Office

New York State will launch a campaign to alert people and medical providers about access to abortion care while also creating a patient's reproductive Bill of Rights, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Monday.

The move comes in the wake of a new Texas law prohibiting abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected — often at about six weeks and before many people know they are pregnant. The Texas law encourages private citizens to sue anyone who performs, aids or abets an abortion, even if they have no connection to the procedure. Plaintiffs could be entitled to at least $10,000 in damages if they prevail in court.

Hochul said that since New York could become a haven for Texas residents seeking an abortion, she is directing the State Department of Health to create a page on its website about abortion care, including links to providers, and develop a patient's reproductive Bill of Rights.

"We want to make sure New York State patients … and anyone who comes here knows their rights," Hochul said during a news conference with other female elected leaders at the Women's Rights Pioneers Monument in Central Park. " … If you don't know your rights, you might as well not have these rights."

The state health department, Hochul said, will also work with stakeholders, including Planned Parenthood, the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists and the New York Civil Liberties Union, to create "modern and comprehensive provider guidance" detailing the rights of medical professionals to provide abortion care. Webinars documenting the new guidance will become available to providers, she said.

And telehealth visits, which grew out of the pandemic, should be expanded to ensure access to medical abortions when prescription drugs are used to end a pregnancy, Hochul said.

"The national landscape around abortion is far from reassuring," said Dr. Meera Shah, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic. "When abortion access is littered with political interference innocent people suffer."

The Texas law, critics contend, is the nation’s biggest curb to abortion rights since the Supreme Court affirmed in the 1973 decision, Roe v. Wade, that people have a constitutional right to an abortion. Last week, the United States Department of Justice sued Texas over the law, arguing it was enacted "in open defiance of the Constitution."

"It's a violation of human rights undeniably," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on Monday. "This Texas decision is abhorrent. And I can't imagine a worse decision for women."

Hochul on Monday also wrote to Facebook Chairman Mark Zuckerberg urging the social media giant to curb and combat the spread of "misinformation" on the platform about abortion laws, procedures and availability.

"At a time when women in Texas and other states with restrictive laws are looking for guidance," Hochul wrote, "these posts can make women in need of abortion care feel unsafe and alone."

A Facebook spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

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