After the Texas ruling to suspend the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the abortion drug mifepristone and possibly stop the nationwide use of the popular medication, Gov. Kathy Hochul moved to further protect abortion rights in New York during a Planned Parenthood virtual press conference on Tuesday.
“Last year, the attacks were on abortion procedures. This year: medication abortion. What's next, contraception, birth control? Well, I'm here to say: not in New York, not now – not ever,” Hochul said, asserting the ruling could have unprecedented consequences.
While the governor has remained mostly engrossed in negotiations on the long-overdue final state budget – and busy with announcing her second chief judge pick – Hochul emerged after the controversial Texas ruling to announce the state will create a stockpile of the abortion medication misoprostol. The governor also announced $20 million in state funding, on top of the $35 million investment already in place, to protect and support abortion providers. Hochul said she’s been in talks with the Legislature on a measure, included in the 2024 executive budget, that would require private insurance companies to cover off-label misoprostol and protect providers against consequences for prescribing the drug off-label.
Medication abortions usually use a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol. Mifepristone is used to block the pregnancy hormone progesterone, while misoprostol, taken a few hours later, causes the uterus to expel tissue. While safe, a misoprostol-only regimen is more uncomfortable and takes longer. The medications are also prescribed to help treat miscarriages.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson to overturn federal abortion protections prompted Hochul and the Legislature to pass a legislative package to protect abortion and reproductive rights in the state. But the recent Texas ruling is arguably the first time a court ruling may have the potential to directly impact abortion access in New York.
Hochul isn’t alone in sounding the alarm. Several New York elected officials have also shared their views on the ruling. Hudson Valley Rep. Pat Ryan – who notably secured wins in two Congressional races by using his abortion rights platform last year – reintroduced a bill to reaffirm the FDA’s authority to regulate abortion medication and ensure patients have access to telehealth prescriptions for abortion medication following the ruling. Some New York congressional Republicans, including Long Island Rep. Anthony D'Esposito and Hudson Valley Rep. Marc Molinaro, have also issued statements opposing the Texas ruling.
State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins told reporters at the state Capitol on Tuesday that the Legislature was talking about ways to preserve access to the medication. "We are talking about what we can as a state do. I know there are certainly - we want to make sure we have access to mifepristone just like so many other states are trying to figure out - how the needs of our constituents will be met," Stewart-Cousins said.
Queens Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas wrote a Daily News op-ed urging the state Legislature to further protect abortion rights in the state by passing the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Act. The bill would provide funding to abortion providers, government entities and nonprofit organizations across the state whose primary function is to facilitate access to abortion care. “New York must provide adequate resources to ensure abortion providers have the capacity to offer abortion care, and patients have the necessary funds to get the abortions they need,” González-Rojas wrote.
While the public grapples with the Texas ruling, a ruling in another case makes the fate of access to abortion pills unclear. On the same day the Texas ruling came out, a district judge in Washington delivered an opposite abortion rights ruling to stop authorities from restricting access to mifepristone in many states.
The competing rulings from the Texas and Washington judges make it unclear which decision will stand and whether or not the battle will make it to the U.S. Supreme Court remains to be seen.
In the meantime, Hochul and New York elected officials are largely prepared to fight to secure abortion rights in the state. “As long as I'm governor, New Yorkers will have access to the care they need when they need it. And we'll continue to open our arms to all people seeking freedoms and autonomy,” Hochul said.
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