As the U.S. Supreme Court appears ready to strike down Roe v. Wade, New York Democrats want taxpayers to fund abortions for out-of-state women – including illegal migrants – through a proposed state program costing tens of millions of dollars per year.
“That’s the goal of this bill – to ensure that everyone can get the care that they need no matter their [immigration] status or their socio-economic conditions, insurance status, all that, ”Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas (D-Queens), told The Post Monday about the legislation she is sponsoring with state Sen. Cordell Cleare (D-Harlem),
The envisioned Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program would cover medical costs and traveling expenses as well as “childcare, lodging, lost wages and more” through nonprofits who would receive public money through the annual budget process, according to the legislative language.
People living in New York, as well as out-of-state residents, would be eligible for the program.
But some legislators say there are better ways to spend the approximately $ 50 million in annual funding that González-Rojas said the program would need to meet expected demand.
“We have so many of our own citizens that have critical health care needs that we should be focused on. For instance, we are witnessing an explosion of mental health issues, especially in our young people, ”Assemblyman John Salka (R-Cooperstown) said in a text.
“It’s outrageous. The taxpayers of the state of New York should not be subsidizing the performing of abortions for out-of-state women, ”Salka said.
Demand for abortions in New York is expected in the coming months, especially in states like Texas where some migrants face new abortion restrictions after enduring rape and other violence while crossing the southern border with Mexico.
“I’ve seen the repercussions of people in the Rio Grande Valley, I’ve been down there, they’ve crossed borders to get care literally… in a Roe world, they still have so many barriers to care that they’d have to seek abortion care elsewhere, ”added González-Rojas, referring to the influx of migrants at the Southern Border.
The chairs of the health committees in both legislative chambers – state Sen. Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx) and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) – expressed support for the bill when asked by the Post on Monday.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also tweeted his support for the legislation Monday following a press conference featuring State Attorney General Letitia James, who floated the idea for such a fund late last year, and other supporters of the bill.
“Establishing this new fund will support individuals’ increased access to abortion care in key circumstances where insurance coverage cannot be used by a provider or there is an inability for the patient to pay,” City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said in a press release.
More than two dozen of her colleagues in the Assembly and state Senate have signed on as co-sponsors of the newly introduced legislation, which could become part of a package of abortion-related bills that could pass both chambers before legislators adjourn for the year on June 2.
Other measures that could be included in the package include a proposed amendment to the state Constitution to protect the right to abortion. Another proposed law would protect abortion providers in New York from lawsuits filed in other states like Texas as well as requiring New York insurers to cover abortion.
“We will certainly be standing up for women’s health and choice and look forward to New York once again leading the way on this crucial issue,” a spokesman for state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in a statement.
A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie did not respond to a request for comment.
Just how many illegal migrants might take advantage of taxpayer-funded abortions in New York remains unclear though advocates of the legislation say that they will likely make up a significant percentage of the approximately 200,000 women likely to turn to New York for abortion access once the Supreme Court officially strikes down Roe v. Wade, which is expected as soon as next month.
“The crux of this legislation is really about shoring up access… It’s just way too soon in the process to try to try to earmark a specific number or percentage of patients that might be undocumented,” Georgana Hanson, interim president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, told the Post.
Democrats like embattled Governor Kathy Hochul are aiming to make abortion access an important issue in upcoming elections where the balance of power in Washington, DC and in Albany hangs in the balance.
Polling consistently shows that most voters are in favor of maintaining the status quo established by the Roe v Wade decision a half-century ago – but some Republicans say that does not mean that the Empire State ought to cover abortions for women who illegally migrate to the United States or anyone else.