Gov. Hochul said Tuesday that she was sending $35 million into a new fund for abortion providers, stepping up efforts to guarantee abortion access as New York girds for the expected end of federal reproductive rights.
Describing the new fund as a “nation-leading response,” the governor promised the state will “do whatever it takes to protect and defend the rights of not just New York women, but women all across this nation.”
“New York will be there,” Hochul, who is isolating in Albany with a COVID diagnosis, said in a virtual news conference. “Don’t mess with the State of New York.”
The state’s first female governor said the fund would be established through the Health Department and would represent the largest allocation of its kind in the U.S.
Hochul’s office said the Health Department would direct $25 million in emergency funds to abortion providers, while another $10 million would be funneled through Division of Criminal Justice Services grants to bolster security at abortion clinics.
In 2019, almost 1-in-10 abortions in New York involved out-of-staters, according to a count by the federal government. The state could face a surge in health care refugees if the Supreme Court follows through on plans to overturn the national right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade.
“In addition to this direct support to providers to make sure that they can be prepared for what will be in an influx of patients, we also have to make sure that these facilities are safe,” Hochul said, explaining the security grants. “No one should feel unsafe accessing health care.”
The fund marks just one tool Hochul and state lawmakers are reaching for in response to a political and public health earthquake unleashed by last week’s disclosure of a draft Supreme Court decision that would unwind the Roe, which was decided by a 7-to-2 margin in 1973.
The draft opinion, dated Feb. 10 and published by Politico in a stunning leak, is not final. But The Washington Post, citing three conservatives with knowledge, reported over the weekend that a 5-to-4 conservative majority on the court was still prepared to strike down Roe.
In reaction, lawmakers are working to cement abortion protections in the state Constitution, a lengthy process that would need to be endorsed by voters on a ballot initiative, and pushing a bill would protect New York abortion providers from out-of-state law enforcement efforts.
On Monday, state Attorney Letitia James, state Sen. Cordell Cleare (D-Harlem) and Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas held a news conference in Manhattan to highlight an abortion access bill that would create a separate funding program for providers.
Hochul on Tuesday offered appreciation to James and legislative sponsors working on legislation. “I appreciate everyone who’s joining this battle,” Hochul, a Democrat, said. “We are ready.”
In 1970, New York became the second state in the U.S. with broad legalization of abortion, and it expanded reproductive rights in a 2019 law that permits procedures after 24 weeks of pregnancy if necessary to protect a patient’s health.
“New York has always led the way,” Hochul said. “New York women need to continue leading this fight.”
She described the Supreme Court’s draft opinion as “absolutely unconscionable” and promised she would direct the “full power of New York State government” toward ensuring abortion access for New Yorkers, as well as out-of-staters.
“For the sake of women across this country, I hope that is not the final decision, but I am going to have to proceed on the assumption that it is,” the governor said. “We’re not just playing defense. We’re playing offense.”