ALBANY — As the nation's highest court considers overturning a landmark ruling protecting abortion rights, New York lawmakers are advancing measures that would block other states from extraditing New York abortion providers.
New York has among the most vigorous abortion safeguards in the nation. It is considered a sanctuary state for those seeking reproductive medical services.
The laws already on the books would be strengthened under a package of bills advanced by Assemblyman Charles Lavine, D-Long Island, the influential chairman of the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
His proposals would:
• Prohibit courts and county clerks from issuing subpoenas in connection with out-of-state abortion proceedings.
• Prevent New York law enforcement agencies from cooperating with anti-abortion state investigations relating to abortions.
• Prohibit the extradition of abortion providers.
"We will not sit passively as states with authoritarian governments enact laws suppressing human rights," Lavine, a lawyer, said.
While Roman Catholic bishops have registered objections to taxpayer dollars being spent in New York to fund abortions, legislative efforts to restrict abortion at the statehouse have failed to gain traction.
The last GOP politician to win statewide office was three-time Gov. George Pataki, who served from 1995 through 2006. On the abortion issue, he was pro-choice.
New York's Reproductive Health Act, passed in 2019, broadened abortion protections by ensuring that abortion in New York is regulated under public health law.
It removed any mention of the procedure in criminal law, including criminal penalties. It also allows abortions to be provided by licensed midwives, physicians assistants and licensed nurse practitioners as well as doctors.
Supporters say the new provisions have improved access to abortion for women in rural regions where physicians may be in short supply. Opponents of the law contended some women could be endangered by having non-doctors terminate pregnancies.
With both houses of the Legislature and all statewide offices under the firm control of pro-choice Democrats, one potential consequence of the nation's highest court overturning Roe v. Wade is that more women could be prompted to come to the state for an abortion if their home states shut down abortion clinics.
Abortion opponents are already preparing for that eventuality, said Jason McGuire, director of the conservative New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms.
"I can assure you that pro-life pregnancy counseling centers across the state of New York are already preparing for an influx of women who will need their aid," McGuire said.
Defenders of abortion rights say more work needs to be done in New York.
A measure sponsored by Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, D-the Bronx, would create a fund to which New Yorkers could make contributions via their tax returns that would provide financial assistance to low-income women seeking abortion services.
Biaggi's legislation states that many people seeking such services face obstacles in the form of travel and child care expenses.
"Far too many low-income New Yorkers, young people, people of color, and undocumented immigrants face financial barriers to accessing abortion care," Biaggi said.
Dennis Poust, spokesman for the Catholic Conference of New York, representing the state's Roman Catholic bishops, called the Biaggi proposal "ridiculous."
"The idea is to almost make abortion a tourism industry in New York to bring people here for abortions and maybe a Broadway show," Poust said. "The idea of using New York taxpayer funds to pay for abortions for people who don't even live here is crazy.