Attorney General Letitia James and state lawmakers are pushing for a dedicated fund to pay for abortions for individuals traveling from states where the procedure could soon be banned.
The Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program would direct $50 million in state money to the Department of Health, which would then provide grants to abortion providers, according to one of its sponsors, Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas. James and other elected officials announced the legislation Monday, one week after a leaked draft memo indicated that the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn Roe V. Wade in the coming months.
A portion of the money would go toward uncompensated abortion care, regardless of a person’s insurance status. It would also help offset travel expenses for those coming to New York for the procedure.
“We are lucky to live in New York where the basic right is enshrined into law and where the people in power actually care about the health and well-being of the people we serve and those who live outside the state of New York who require access to an abortion,” James said at a Manhattan press conference.
The bill is part of a wave of proposals coming from progressive states that aim to prepare for an influx of non-residents seeking abortions.
New York lawmakers have also introduced legislation to ensure that legal safeguards remain in place, amid fears that anti-abortion states could try to take legal action against out-of-state providers or nonprofits that serve their residents.
Even with Roe in tact, the number of people seeking abortions has increased, as other states have spent years rolling out anti-abortion restrictions.
Between 2012 and 2019, the percentage of abortions obtained by non-residents in New York roughly tripled – from 3% to nearly 9% – according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
State Sen. Cordell Cleare, who represents Harlem and is also sponsoring the bill, said the dedicated fund would send a clear message that New York was a safe haven for reproductive rights.
“We will not be subject to the arbitrary whims of a politicized Supreme Court, nor can we fund health care services via private fundraisers,” Cleare said. “To do so is an affront to the principles of equity, fairness and good government.”
A spokesperson for Gov. Kathy Hochul did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether she would support the legislation.
Caroline Lewis contributed reporting.