ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York has expanded legal protections for people seeking and providing abortions in the state under legislation signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday.
The Democratic governor pushed for the laws in anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court potentially overruling its 1973 Roe v. Wade’s decision, which established a constitutional right to abortion. A ruling that could weaken or end abortion protections is expected as early as this week, and abortion providers are worried New York will see a surge in out-of-state residents.
“Today, we are taking action to protect our service providers from the retaliatory actions of anti-abortion states and ensure that New York will always be a safe harbor for those seeking reproductive healthcare,” Hochul said.
One new New York law protects abortion providers from arrest, extradition and legal proceedings in other states by forbidding New York state and local courts and law enforcement agencies from cooperating in most scenarios. Exceptions could include criminal cases where another state’s governor says someone committed a crime there, and later fled to New York.
Under another new law, New York will protect the right of people to seek abortion care in the state. People could sue for unlawful interference with their right to reproductive health care when other people or entities bring civil or criminal charges against them for seeking, accessing or providing abortions.
And at a time when reproductive health care providers can provide care to patients virtually, another new law will prevent insurers from taking action against New York health care providers who perform reproductive services that are illegal elsewhere.
The state’s health commissioner will also study the unmet health needs of pregnant women and the impact of unlicensed centers that offer some pregnancy services and persuade women against abortion.
The laws protecting abortion providers and care take effect immediately.
In 90 days, another new law will begin allowing abortion providers and patients — as well as their family members — to participate in an existing state program that lets people shield their address.
The National Abortion Federation says death threats against abortion providers more than doubled from 92 in 2019 to 200 in 2020.
The new laws follow the Democratic governor’s plans to give abortion providers $35 million to expand services and boost security for abortion providers because of the expected Roe v. Wade ruling.
Out-of-state residents accounted for nearly 9% — or 7,000 out of roughly 79,000 abortions — performed in New York in 2019, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s up from 5% — or roughly 4,700 out of 93,000 — in 2015.