NY abortion providers, lawmakers prepare for out-of-state patients

Abortion providers in New York are trying to measure a potential influx of women from out of state seeking their services as the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned weighs heavily across the country. 

In 2012, the CDC reported that out-of-staters accounted for about 3% of New York abortions but by 2019 that number tripled. 

Now, providers say, this is likely only the beginning. 

"We're all abortion meteorologists right now trying to figure out how much snow is going to fall," said Emma Corbett, the communications director for Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts.

New York abortion providers, like Planned Parenthood, say they are preparing for up to 230,000 women from other states who might soon need their services.

Around the country, numerous states are gearing up to start limiting women's access to reproductive health care after a leaked Supreme Court opinion, which was obtained by Politico, revealed that the five conservative justices could be voting to overturn Roe v. Wade, which has protected a women's right to an abortion for nearly half a century. 

The governor of Oklahoma on Tuesday signed a bill that prohibits abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. This bill takes effect immediately and is similar to measures taken by Texas last year. 

Corbett said that 26 states have enacted what are called "trigger laws."

"And so when Roe falls this summer, abortion will become illegal in those locations," Corbett said, "leaving about 36 million people of reproductive age in this country without access to an abortion provider in their state."

In New York, a woman's right to an abortion is protected in the state's constitution. But groups like the New York Civil Liberties Union say that this is only just the start and there needs to be a real investment in services and providers.

"Rights without the ability to access them don't count for a whole lot," NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. "Providers are essential to people being able to access care that is critical."

Top Democrats in the state Legislature introduced a package of bills on Tuesday that includes requiring insurance companies to cover abortions. It also provides protections for women in other states, by prohibiting law enforcement from cooperating with out-of-state investigations on abortion cases and sets up an abortion access fund, which taxpayers can contribute to, for women in need of financial assistance.

State Sen. Brad Hoylman is a co-sponsor of these bills.  

"Those are just a few that we can do now," Hoylman said. "But I do believe that it's important that we send a message to Americans that New Yorkers welcome women seeking reproductive health."

Many are bracing to see how this impacts elections across the country and if this issue will motivate voters to head to the polls. 

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, who is running for a full term, already released two new digital ads highlighting the state's commitment to abortion access.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, who is the Republican Party's gubernatorial nominee, recently spoke with and urged a group called New York Right to Life to vote for a "pro-life" candidate. Zeldin's campaign did not return a request for comment.