‘Bans will only stop safe abortions’: AG James announces legislation to protect abortion access in New York and help out-of-state women obtain it

State Attorney General Letitia James made clear Monday that the only thing a possible Supreme Court reversal of the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling would do is stop safe abortions — and endanger women’s lives.

“The reality of the situation is that bans will not stop abortions. Bans will only stop safe abortion, and that is why we are here today to provide safe abortion access,” James said Monday during a press conference announcing new legislation to expand abortion access for low-income New Yorkers while also providing funding for those from banned states seeking abortions in New York. 

Introduced by state Senator Cordell Cleare and Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas, the act would be executed statewide and would increase financial support for both abortion providers and non-profit organizations to aid access to reproductive care. Proponents of the bill say that low-income women, Black and Brown women, and immigrants would suffer the most from an overturn of Roe v. Wade — as they would not be able to afford the luxury of traveling to other states to get abortions where they remain legal.

“This fund will direct $50 million to the Department of Health in order to offer grants to abortion providers and nonprofits,” González-Rojas said. “And that means everything from allowing providers to get training and education and bringing more staff and security as well as ensuring uncompensated care is being reached so that people who don’t have insurance, don’t have access to insurance, can get this care and it also provides resources for folks to get here travel, childcare, most people who have abortions are already parents and doula care as well. So, this is a critical piece of legislation.”

Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas. Photo by Dean Moses

This bill, if passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor, would take effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned. However, James cautioned that the leaked proposal is still just a draft, and she hopes that the court’s final ruling would preserve the landmark decision rather than kill it.

Citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, James said that in 2019, 7,000 of the abortion procedures performed in New York were for women from out of state. If Roe v. Wade is indeed overturned that number is likely to increase to more than 32,000 procedures a year from individuals traveling from just Ohio and Pennsylvania to New York along, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

James had some choice words for critics who claim they care for the rights of unborn children.

“And I also would go on to say that if individuals are truly concerned about children, that what they should do is expand the childcare tax credit. What they should do is expand universal school lunch. What they should do is provide more funding for education and childcare and daycare and prenatal care. And the list goes on and on. If you truly care about children,” James said.

During last week’s Foley Square abortion rights demonstration, James shared that she made the choice to have an abortion years ago — a decision she says she will fight for women to continue to have.

Attorney General Letitia James. Photo by Dean Moses