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Gov. Hochul acts to make NY a 'safe harbor' for abortion rights

Governor Kathy Hochul announced Monday a push to affirm New York State's abortion rights protections, in response to a recently enacted abortion ban in Texas. With Hochul watching at left, State Assembly Majority Leader Andrew Stewart-Cousins is seen speaking a Monday gathering in New York, where Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (right) also joined the announcement.
Don Pollard
Office of the Governor
Gov. Kathy Hochul (l) announced Monday a push to affirm New York State's abortion rights protections, in response to a recently enacted abortion ban in Texas, with state Assembly Majority Leader Andrew Stewart-Cousins (at podium) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (r).

Gov. Kathy Hochul, responding to strict new abortion laws in Texas, said Monday she’ll make New York a safe legal haven for women’s reproductive health.

Hochul, saying “we have to stop extremists from taking women's rights away” appeared Monday with New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and other female state and local leaders at the Women's Rights Pioneers Monument in in New York City’s Central Park.

The Texas law prohibits abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy, and creates a kind of bounty system where people can be paid up to $10,000 if they report potential violators. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to issue a stay of the law while it reviews the case. Several other states, including Mississippi Alabama and Ohio, are considering similar laws.

Hochul said the law takes away rights that many women have taken for granted for nearly half a century.

“I guarantee I did not know I was pregnant with my first child at six weeks. I actually went on a whitewater rafting trip, it turns out, at three months because I didn't know I was pregnant. I mean, that is the reality of real people,” Hochul said. “That is grotesquely unfair what they're expecting people to do.”

The governor said she wants to create a “safe harbor” for abortion rights in New York for women who live in the state and also from Texas and other states contemplating more restrictions. New York was the first state to legalize access to abortion, in 1970. In 2019, New York codified into state law the right to abortion established in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v Wade.

Hochul is directing all state agencies to coordinate a public information campaign about a woman’s right to choose an abortion in New York. She’s also developing a patients’ bill of rights, to be posted in doctors’ offices and health care clinics, so that women will know their rights and legal protections. Healthcare providers will receive updated guidance on the right to provide abortion-related care.

Hochul also wants the state health department to ensure that medication that induces abortion is more readily available and can be accessed through telehealth visits. She’s instructing the state Health Department to update its regulations.

And the governor is sending a letter to Facebook, asking the social media company to quell the growing misinformation about abortion laws, asking them to help “get the truth out” — and she said she expects results.

“That we ensure that we don’t allow those lies to continue,” said Hochul. “That there’s accountability and responsibility at the top of those companies to help tell the truth across this nation.”

Hochul has a long history with the issue of abortion rights. She attributes the 2012 loss of her Western New York congressional seat to her unwavering stance on a woman’s right to choose the procedure.

State Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said even in a blue state like New York, abortion rights cannot be taken for granted. She said as a freshman senator in 2007, she carried the bill to codify the rights in Roe v Wade into state law.

She said, at the time, opponents derided her as trying to “seek attention.”

“Even here in New York I was picketed, my offices were attacked,” said Stewart-Cousins, who said she was told “the endeavor was unnecessary because ‘this was settled law’.”

It took 12 years before the measure was approved.

The state’s Catholic Conference called Hochul’s actions “political posturing.”

“Seriously, is there anybody in the country that doesn’t know that New York is the abortion capital of the world already?” said Kathleen Gallagher, director for Pro-Life Activities.

Gallagher said she would like the state’s leaders to put the same efforts into helping women who are struggling to continue their pregnancies.

“Where’s the bill of rights for women who chose to carry their baby to term?” she asked.

Gallagher said the state should be making just as strong an effort to inform women of access to neo-natal care, health insurance coverage and child care.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.