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Hochul will ask feds for funding for out-of-state patients seeking abortion, if Roe is overturned

 New York Governor Kathy Hochul addresses an abortion rights rally in Albany on May 3, 2022.
Ashley Hupfl
New York Governor Kathy Hochul addresses an abortion rights rally in Albany on May 3, 2022.

Governor Kathy Hochul says she’ll ask the federal government for aid to deal with the expected surge of people seeking abortions in New York, if the Supreme Court acts on a draft opinion striking down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

If conservative judges on the US Supreme Court follow through with a draft opinion leaked earlier this week striking down abortion rights, then as many as 26 states may also outlaw the procedure.

Hochul, speaking on MSNBC, says thousands of people seeking abortions may try to find health care in New York, where the rights enshrined in Roe v. Wade were codified into New York law in 2019, and will not be affected by the potential Supreme Court decision.

The Democratic governor has said the state will welcome those patients with “open arms.” She says she will ask for federal funding to help with that effort.

“This is an area where the Biden administration can help us financially,” Hochul said. “We would appreciate that support, because this is going to be an enormous cost to us, but we want people to feel that this is a safe harbor. This is a fundamental right under assault. “

The governor says when New York in 1970 was the first state to legalize abortion, around 200,000 women sought the procedure in New York, and she expects at least that number of people to seek help in the state again.

Hochul says the recently passed state budget includes $10 billion over the next five years to increase staffing at health care facilities. She says she’ll work to make sure that telehealth is an option for people who can’t travel or don’t want to come to the state to seek care.

“We are also going to be helping with our telehealth services, making sure that insurance companies cover this so we can make sure that if someone wants to get a prescription for medication abortions, that that’s available as well,” Hochul said.

She says the state’s new spending plan also requires that health insurers cover abortion.  

Later, on ABC News, Hochul said she and Democratic leaders of the legislature are considering an amendment to New York’s constitution. It would ensure that the right to choose an abortion is protected in the state, even if some Republicans who advocate for a federal law again abortion come to power.

“I want to have this enshrined, not just in state law, but in our constitution, just in case there ever is a situation where we lose the House, lose the Senate, heaven forbid and I don’t believe that’ll happen, but planning for the worst case scenarios if there ever was a federal law that would supersede our state law, we want to make sure it's in our constitution,” said Hochul.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins says New York could become “the last line of defense” for abortion rights. She says she agrees with Hochul that stronger steps need to be taken, in case Democrats ever lose power to the GOP in blue New York.

“I think at this point everything has to be on the table,” Stewart-Cousins said.

Senate Leader Stewart-Cousins says bills in the Senate, sponsored by Finance Committee Chair Liz Krueger, and Senator Alessandra Biaggi, would try to protect providers in New York from legal action from states where the procedure would be banned.

A Texas law which took effect in September bans abortions after six weeks, and allows state residents to essentially become bounty hunters, allowing them to bring civil lawsuits for as much as $10,000 against anyone who violates that law.

“We do not want anybody who’s going to be hunted in Texas, to be hunted here,” Stewart-Cousins said.

Hochul says state lawyers are examining extradition agreements with other states, and whether or not to comply with subpoenas.

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