New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a bill that would provide funding for abortion providers and nonprofits to help increase access to abortion care for low-income New Yorkers and for people coming from out of state. Credit: New York Attorney General's Office

A proposed New York law would provide financial support for abortion providers, ensuring access for low-income New Yorkers and those traveling from other states seeking abortions, state Attorney General Letitia James and state lawmakers said Monday.

The bill, introduced by state Assemb. Jessica González-Rojas (D-East Elmhurst) and state Sen. Cordell Cleare (D-Harlem), establishes the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program Act and would provide funding to abortion providers and nonprofits.

A Supreme Court majority supported reversing Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision establishing a constitutional right to an abortion, according to a leaked draft ruling from February. A final ruling is expected in the next several weeks. The bill comes amid a projected increase in the number of women traveling to New York to seek abortions if the decision is overturned and the procedure is banned or extremely limited in other states.

“We will continue to act to ensure that every New Yorker and those beyond the lines of our state have access to this … critical right,” James said during a news conference at her Manhattan office Monday. “The reality of the situation is that bans will not stop abortions, bans will only stop safe abortions.”

James previously urged the enactment of such state legislation last year and again during a rally in Mineola on Saturday.

The proposed law notes “safety-net abortion providers” that serve the uninsured typically rely on philanthropy and don't usually receive state funds. The bill does not contain a dollar amount, but González-Rojas said during the news conference it could direct $50 million to the state Department of Health for the program. 

“We have to be ready and willing and able to welcome everybody with compassion, with dignity and with quality abortion care,” she said. 

The bill also directs providers receive funds to protect the privacy of individuals obtaining abortions.

The legislation is one of about 20 proposed by New York state legislators who, anticipating the high court's reversal, are seeking to make New York a nationwide safe haven for those seeking abortions.

“We plan on taking up a package of bills that would provide additional funding, protections and help for women looking to take control of their own health decisions,” Mike Murphy, a spokesman for Senate Democrats said in an email.

Michael Wyland, a spokesman for Assembly speaker Carl Heastie, said the speaker has said he is horrified by the news of Roe V. Wade potentially being overturned and is talking about all options with Assembly members.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Kathy Hochul released a statement saying, “Governor Hochul is exploring all options to ensure New York continues to be a beacon of safe, accessible abortion care, and we are actively looking at the best ways to quickly provide urgently needed support to abortion providers, in close consultation with legislative leaders, advocates, and providers."

Assembly minority leader Will Barclay (R-Pulaski) said the state shouldn’t be spending money to increase what he said is an already high number of abortions. “Access to abortion has been expanded repeatedly, and as a result this state has the dubious distinction of owning one of the highest abortion rates in the nation,” he said in a statement. “I stand completely opposed to the notion that more taxpayer dollars should be spent on efforts to take the rate even higher.”

In 2019, nearly 7,000 or 9% of all abortions performed in New York were for those who traveled from out of state, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. If Roe is struck down, that number could grow to more than 32,000 procedures a year from individuals traveling from only Ohio and Pennsylvania to New York, according to the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute, which supports legalized abortion.

Twenty-six states are certain or likely to ban abortions if the ruling is overturned, according to Guttmacher.

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