A large crowd looked on Monday as Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a package of legislation that expands legal protections for people seeking and performing abortions in New York.
The governor and state legislators have rushed to strengthen access to abortion in the state as the Supreme Court appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the case that established a constitutional right to get the medical procedure in 1973. A draft opinion reversing Roe was leaked in May and the Supreme Court’s final ruling could be released sometime this month or early July.
In the past, Hochul said, those who talked about Roe v. Wade being overturned may have sounded like Chicken Little saying the sky was falling, but she emphasized that now that could be a reality.
“The sky is on the verge of falling literally in the next week or two,” Hochul said at the event at Cooper Union in Manhattan where she signed the laws. “That is a very real possibility and that’s why we’re here today.”
Hochul signed six pieces of legislation in all. They seek to address both criminal charges and civil lawsuits that people providing, assisting with and seeking abortions in New York could face if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
One of the laws enacted Monday will prevent both abortion providers and out-of-state residents seeking abortions in New York from being extradited to other states where the procedure is banned or restricted. It also prohibits courts from issuing subpoenas in most abortion cases and blocks law enforcement from assisting with out-of-state investigations into abortions. Another measure makes it possible for someone to file a civil suit if anyone tries to interfere with or take legal action against them for exercising rights that are protected in New York.
Abortion is likely to be banned or severely restricted in about half of the U.S. if Roe is overturned, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Speaking about the possibility of a woman being “wanted” in another state for getting an abortion, Hochul said, “This is how scary this gets. This is not some futuristic film or book.”
Other measures signed Monday will shield abortion providers from malpractice claims and professional misconduct charges. Under another law, the state will create a program, to be administered by New York’s Secretary of State, that will help those who might be targeted by anti-abortion activists to hide their addresses.
A final piece of legislation directs the state health commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett to study the impact of “limited service pregnancy centers,” which don’t inform pregnant people of their full range of options.
Bassett, legislative leaders and other state officials who spoke at the event took the opportunity to remind people of the dangers those in states without abortion access could face.
“When safe abortion is stripped away, it doesn’t stop abortions. It never has,” Bassett said. “But abortions become more deadly and dangerous and access to safe abortion will be filtered through the inequities in our society.”
In anticipation of more people traveling to New York from other states for abortions, Hochul has also established a $35 million fund to assist clinics that provide abortions with any uncompensated costs and to help them improve their security.