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Hochul signs bills to protect abortion rights in New York

New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks to the media on June 10, 2022.
Karen DeWitt
New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks to the media on June 10, 2022.

Governor Kathy Hochul on Monday signed six bills into law that protect abortion rights and support reproductive health care providers in New York. The measures are in response to an anticipated decision from the U.S. Supreme Court that would overturn the 1973 abortion rights decision, Roe v. Wade.

Hochul says she expects the high court to overturn Roe in the next couple of weeks, and she predicts it will be disastrous for women in the United States.

“The sky is on the verge of falling, literally, in the next week or two,” said Hochul, who added she has three messages for those who are leading the “assault” on a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body.

“They are: not here, not now, not ever,” the governor said to applause.

The new laws protect the right to an abortion for patients both from New York and from states where the procedure would be banned if Roe falls. They include prohibiting the state from extraditing a patient or a health care practitioner to another state to face abortion-related charges if the procedure was conducted in New York. The state will also not have to honor a subpoena request from another state if it relates to abortion services legally performed in New York.

And health care professionals can’t be charged with professional misconduct or be denied medical malpractice insurance for performing a legal abortion.

Hochul says the state budget already includes $25 million dollars to support abortion care facilities in New York, and has $10 million dollars to beef up security.

The governor says the anticipated increase in demand from out-of-state patients is already occurring. She says Planned Parenthood in Western New York is seeing an influx of patients from neighboring Ohio, where the procedure would be limited to the first six weeks of a pregnancy if Roe is overturned.

“That is just the beginning,” Hochul predicted.

The Legislature also approved a measure to add even more funding for abortion services, but Hochul says she’s not ready to sign that into law at this time.

Leaders of the Legislature also spoke, including Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. She says the bill-signing ceremony brings mixed emotions. She’s happy that New York is acting to preserve a woman’s right to choose but is aggravated that the fight for those rights has to happen again.

Stewart-Cousins disclosed that as a teenager in 1970, the year abortion became legal in New York, she became pregnant with her first child.

“I didn’t know anything about the (State) Legislature,” Stewart-Cousins said. “All I knew was that I was pregnant, and I had a choice.”

New York updated the 1970 laws and codified the abortion rights in Roe v. Wade into state law in 2019. This year, Hochul and supporters in the Legislature wanted to go further and pass a constitutional amendment that would guarantee those rights and protect them against any future federal attempts to outlaw the procedure in all states. But that measure was not approved.

Despite that, Governor Hochul is airing campaign ads promoting her efforts to pass the amendment.

Hochul, answering questions from reporters after the bill-signing ceremony, says she still wants to pass a constitutional amendment. She says the measure got bogged down in the Senate and Assembly over its exact wording.

Hochul did not rule out an agreement on it before the end of the year, but says as of now, she expects it won’t be fully resolved until 2023. That would mean the earliest the measure could go before voters would be 2025.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.