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New York to Abortion Seekers: We Will Be Here for You

From laws shielding abortion providers from extradition, arrest and malpractice suits to increased funding and security for clinics, Albany and City Hall made it clear that New York will remain a safe haven.

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Mayor Eric Adams, flanked by his deputy mayors on the steps of City Hall, June 24, 2022.

Hiram Alejandro Durán/THE CITY

New York City officials responded emphatically Friday to the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the landmark case Roe v. Wade, announcing plans to launch a hotline to share information and expand provider access to make the city a “safe haven” for anyone, from anywhere, seeking an abortion.

The justices’ decision throws the legal status of abortion back to states, putting the procedure immediately off limits for millions of Americans. 

Mayor Eric Adams, surrounded by hundreds of staffers and officials on the steps of City Hall, warned New Yorkers that they should “be very afraid” of the high court’s ruling released earlier in the day.

“This is only the beginning of a long-range plan to dismantle individual rights and roll back social progress in the service of minority rule,” he said.

In response, the mayor and other officials said they will increase abortion services throughout New York for both residents and anyone coming in from out of state — including rolling out the citywide hotline by fall and adding medical abortions to the procedures available at city sexual health clinics.

“We are going to step up because this is the city of fighting on behalf of all,” Adams said. “Whomever comes here for assistance, we will be here for that.” 

Around the country, 13 states had trigger laws on the books that immediately banned almost all abortions — without exceptions for rape or incest — once Roe v Wade was overturned. At least seven other states are likely to ban abortion in coming weeks.

New Yorkers poured into the streets to voice their support for anyone who needs an abortion, and to make their anger known.

“Abortion is a human right, not just for the rich and white!” marchers screamed at Washington Square Park.

At a rally at Union Square, 26-year-old Colleen Smith of Brooklyn held a sign that read “Reproductive Rights = Human Rights” — and spoke of the dangers of “forced birth” as anti-abortion counter-protesters shouted over her.

“Forced motherhood is dangerous for everyone involved. It’s backwards. It’s a human rights violation, and it’s really scary,” she said.

At City Hall earlier in the day, the mayor shared his own experience with an abortion: When he was 15 years old, not long after the Roe decision, a girl he was seeing told him she was pregnant. At the time, he said, he wanted her to have the child but she opted to have an abortion.

“She made the decision that was smart for both of us,” he said. “She made the right call because she was empowered, she was in control.”

The mayor spoke after top female leaders, including the five women who are deputy mayors, spoke passionately about Roe v. Wade’s impact on their lives.

Anne Williams-Isom, the deputy mayor for health and human services, also shared her own personal story of having an abortion.

“At 18 I wasn’t financially ready, socially ready, emotionally ready” to be a mother, she said. She urged women across the city to be prepared to fight.

“If you want to protest you protest, but if you want to rest, you rest today, because we have a lot of work we need to do. For me rage and hope live side by side,” she said.

“I want you to rest, because we have a lot of work to do.”

Ready to Be a Safe Haven

New York officials have been planning for the Supreme Court ruling since the decision was leaked to and reported by Politico in May — preparing the state to become a safe haven for those seeking the procedure. 

City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said that planning included improving communications about the city’s status as a safe haven and expanding access to the procedure itself — through additional services at sexual health clinics, expanded capacity at the city’s public hospitals, and parterning with private clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, that currently do the bulk of abortions in the city.

But he said city officials were also working to bolster the other supports that those who choose to have abortions here would require.

“It’s not just about the procedure,” Vasan told THE CITY after the mayor’s news conference. “It’s about pre-procedure, it’s post-procedure, it’s sometimes mental and emotional care and after-care that’s needed,” he added. “It can be a very traumatic event — we’re trying to build up resources in that space as well.”

Thousands of pro-choice supporters packed into Foley Square after it leaked that the Supreme Court was set to overturn Roe v. Wade, May 3, 2022.

Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Vasan said he expects the city to roll out specifics on these resources in the coming weeks and months.

Joy Calloway, the interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, said the nonprofit is working to expand services around New York — including immediately increasing appointment availability at its 23 centers in the state by 20% and opening more telehealth appointments to prescribe abortion pills. 

“This decision is as cruel as it is dangerous,” she said at a virtual rally the group held online Friday. 

Stated Rights

In 1970, three years before Roe, New York became among the first states to legalize abortion, becoming a haven for hundreds of thousands of women who traveled to the state to get the procedure safely and legally.

Readying half a century later for the possibility of Roe being overturned, in 2019, New York became one of the first states to codify the right to an abortion/ Albany lawmakers also ended the ban on ending a pregnancy after 24 weeks.

That same year, the City Council voted to finance the New York Abortion Access Fund with an initial $250,000. The fund helps low-income residents and people traveling from out-of-state access abortions.

Foley Square, May 3, 2022.

Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Friday’s Supreme Court decision — along with proposals like one in Missouri that would allow private citizens to sue anyone who helps a resident obtain an out-of-state abortion — sets up a raft of potential legal conflicts between states where abortion is banned and states expanding abortion access.

In anticipation of that quandary, Gov. Hochul signed a slate of bills this June designed to bolster protections for New York’s abortion providers, including laws that prohibit professional misconduct charges and malpractice claims against clinicians and a law that provides confidentiality for their addresses. Albany also passed a bill that shields abortion providers from “extradition, arrest and legal proceedings in other states.”

In May, Hochul also announced the creation of a $35 million Abortion Provider Support Fund to expand abortion access and improve clinic security.

Speaking on Friday, the governor called today “a dark day for women across this nation” and pledged that New York will “always be a safe harbor for those seeking access to abortion care.”

Adams on Friday said the city would do whatever it could to help people seeking an abortion, but said the private sector would also have to step up to fund transportation for people traveling to New York for an abortion.

Amid a small crowd under the No. 7 train in Sunnyside, Queens, on Friday evening, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Queens), who has been in office since 1985, urged everyone to remain vigilant and united.

And she offered a history lesson to younger Queens residents of the fight to legalize late-term abortion in New York.

“We cannot give in to anger. We cannot give into despair,” she said. “This is going to be difficult. They are coming for all of our rights, we must try to stand together.”

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