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González-Rojas Sponsors Bill That Would Fund Abortions for Out-of-State Women

Thousands of pro-choice supporters packed into Foley Square after a report the Supreme Court was set to overturn Roe v. Wade, May 3, 2022. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

May 10, 2022 By Christian Murray

Jackson Heights Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas introduced legislation Monday that would set up a $50 million fund that would pay for abortion services for women from out of state where the procedure is outlawed.

The bill, titled the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program, would lead to the establishment of a fund where money would be distributed to abortion providers and non-profit organizations in New York. The funds would then be used to cover the cost of the procedure—as well as traveling expenses and childcare costs—for women from out of state as well as low-income New Yorkers.

The introduction of the bill comes at a time when the landmark Roe v Wade ruling– that protected abortion access across the nation– is expected to be struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Last week, a draft ruling was leaked to Politico, which made clear that the court intends to strike it down and leave abortion law in the hands of states.

“One of our greatest fears in generations is coming true: The Supreme Court will overrule Roe v Wade,” González-Rojas said in a statement. “Millions who live in states hostile to abortion access will look to other states for that care. New York must be a leader at this moment and prepare for the impending need.”

The bill is being sponsored in the State Senator by Cordell Cleare, a Democrat who represents Harlem.

The state anticipates that the number of women seeking an abortion in New York would increase dramatically. In 2019, 7,000 abortion procedures were performed across the state, with 9 percent for women from out of state—a number that would increase significantly.

The state, citing a study by the Guttmacher Institute, says that the number of procedures would increase to 32,000 per year just with the influx of women from Ohio and Pennsylvania alone. Twenty-six states are expected to limit or ban abortion procedures should Roe v Wade be struck down.

The program, which would be overseen by the state Health Department, would also provide funding for health care providers to help them increase their capacity given that the need for the procedure in New York will increase.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James, Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas and other elected leaders held a press conference Monday at James’ Manhattan office to promote the bill (Twitter)

González-Rojas joined New York State Attorney General Letitia James and other elected leaders for a press conference Monday to promote the bill.

“New York must lead the fight to keep abortion safe and accessible for all who seek it and this legislation spearheaded by State Senator Cleare and Assemblymember González-Rojas will ensure that low-income New Yorkers and people from states that ban abortion have access to the care they need and deserve,” James said, who put forward the idea for such a fund late last year.

The legislation has the support of Planned Parenthood, the National Institute for Reproductive Health, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the New York Abortion Access Fund and many other groups.

The bill has gained the support of more that 20 co-sponsors in the Assembly, including Health Committee Chair Dick Gottfried.

The legislation doesn’t have universal support. Some Republican lawmakers oppose the bill saying the $50 million would be better spent elsewhere.

“We have so many of our own citizens that have critical health care needs that we should be focused on. For instance, we are witnessing an explosion of mental health issues, especially in our young people,” Assemblyman John Salka (R-Cooperstown) told the New York Post.

“It’s outrageous. The taxpayers of the state of New York should not be subsidizing the performing of abortions for out-of-state women,” Salka told the Post.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, however, is supportive of the concept. She said earlier this month that she would welcome out of state residents seeking the procedure.

“We’re not playing defense, we’re playing offense,” Hochul said. “So, my message to women all across this country is that New York, the State of New York, will always be there for anyone who needs reproductive healthcare, including an abortion.”

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