Jun 26, 2023

NY Strengthens Access to Reproductive Health Care

NY Governor Hochul Signs Legislation to Strengthen Access to Reproductive Health Care Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsAbortionNY Strengthens Access to Reproductive Health Care

This legislation ensures doctors and medical providers are able to provide telehealth services to patients outside of NY. Read the transcript here.


Speaker 1 (00:00):

Please welcome Dr. Linda Prine, co-founder of Act Access, Assembly Member Karines Reyes, Senator Shelley Mayer, and the 57th governor of the great state of New York, Governor Kathy Hochul.

Governor Kathy Hochul (00:54):

Good morning. One year ago today was the last day that the women of this country had a constitutionally protected right to an abortion. We stand here today on the eve of the anniversary, the date that Roe v. Wade was overturned.

It was a dark day in our history. It was a day that most [inaudible 00:01:28] reminder with dark stories we heard from each other, other women who came forward to talk about how before that right that we had taken for granted existed, so many lives were lost in back alleys.

It was a day that most of us will never forget, the day the Supreme Court, with the stroke of a pen, six people out of a population of 332 million, decide to strip women of a right – a fundamental human right to have access to abortion, and in turn, endangered the lives of millions of American women.

Today we’re here, this incredible place, the New York Academy of Medicine. We’re here on behalf of the millions of women, not just New York women, but women all across America. And I want to thank Dr. Ann Kurth, the president of the New York Academy of Medicine for hosting us here today and of her tireless advocacy to make sure that we are able to do what we’re doing here today in signing important legislation. Dr. Kurth, please.

Dr. Linda Prine, the co-founder of the Abortion Coalition for Telemedicine Access, something that no one could have imagined a decade ago, telemedicine access for anything, and you were a champion. You were someone who was a visionary, who saw the great potential to help women, not just here, but across this country. Let’s give her a huge round of applause, Dr. Linda Prine.

The sponsor of the legislation that we’ll be signing within a few minutes, I want to thank Senator Mayer and Assembly Member Reyes for having the courage to stand up and say we can do better; that we can share the freedoms that we take for granted here in New York with women all across this country, and you’ll be remembered for this legislation from a grateful nation. And I thank you for your leadership on this. Let’s give them both a round of applause.

I also want to thank Assembly Member Eddie Gibbs, whose district we’re in. It’s always great to acknowledge our host here as well. I know we have many other champions of these rights who are joining us, members of the state legislature members of my cabinet. I thank them. I know they’re acknowledged. And I want to make sure we never forget the people we’re standing here on behalf of – women who that one year ago date made them fearful, furious.

I remember walking through a park in Brooklyn when it was first announced, and I think everyone knew that it was coming, but we had that timeframe where we thought that maybe, maybe we could turn the tide from that leaked memo about the Dobbs decision that shocked all of us. Maybe we could just get them to change their minds. Maybe this really won’t happen in 2022 in the greatest country on this planet. Maybe it won’t happen.

And then when it did, I walked through parks and I literally held weeping young women in my arms who were so distraught of what had happened to a fundamental right that their grandmothers had fought for, that their mothers had fought for, they assumed would always be there for them and their children. And like that, it was gone.

They lost the fundamental right of control over their own bodies and indeed their own futures. Over the last 12 months, extreme forces across this country have pushed so hard – not just satisfied with what they accomplished with the Supreme Court, but finding even more ways to strip away the rights of their constituents. So many people just wringing their hands: What can we do? Is there any options for us? Does this have to be our destiny?

Well, here in New York, yes sometimes we have to play a good defense – we like our sports. But also we’re better at offense. We like when we have the ability to stand up and not let the extreme forces that are monopolizing the discourse in so many places in this great country – we’re not letting them win. Not here, not in New York, not ever.

So even before the Dobbs decision came down, I challenged my team and the legislatures are busy at work as well: What immediate actions can we take in anticipation of what might happen? I said, I pushed them hard, said, “Be bold, dream big.” And we did.

First of all, we knew that more resources we needed. Like that, we reallocated $35 million more for our providers because we knew that so many women seeking a safe harbor in our state would be coming to our doors, and we did not want the providers overwhelmed. We knew we had to give them more resources. We also mandated that insurance companies in the state of New York cover abortion. That also made it accessible for so many more women.

We passed six laws and signed six laws all before even the Dobbs decision was rendered. And then since then, we’ve doubled down in our state budget this year. Again, my gratitude to the legislature. We added $100 million even more this year for our providers to make sure that they can expand and have more training and more resources so that right is never jeopardized in our state. That’s what we’re going to continue to do. But they haven’t stopped in other states.

Since the Dobb decision, abortion has been essentially outlawed in 14 states – 14 American states. Florida, one of the few places in the south where women could still get an abortion. Oh, they’re so proud when they changed it so you had to be denied an abortion any time after six weeks. Who knows they’re pregnant at six weeks? No one. No one. So basically just saying that right’s

Governor Kathy Hochul (09:00):

It’s gone too. It’s unconscionable. I didn’t know I was pregnant for the first three months with my kids. I was thinking about other things. Moms get busy. It’s just absurd. And now they’re coming after all forms of reproductive care. First of all, in Texas, we saw a mega extremist judge try to invalidate the FDA’s 23-year approval of a widely used abortion drug. Like that one judge in Texas knows better than the FDA. I didn’t think so. I don’t think so. And never before in our history have the courts revoked a decision made by these preeminent scientists and doctors who’ve done very well over time. So when you think about it, stripping away the rights of an independent agency in Washington is not just an attack on women’s rights, it’s also getting at the fundamental basis of our democracy, the separation of powers.

But, that being said, we knew women would be searching for help. And many have come here traveling miles and miles and miles. We have determined that the Society of Family Planning found that since Roe was overturned, hundreds more abortions have been performed here in the state of New York. We knew this was coming. I saw this in Western New York, where I’m from, the clinics there, Planned Parenthood, they were already seeing young women coming in from places like Ohio. We knew this day was coming and we had to be ready and we were.

But now, laws in other states are turning people into bounty hunters, trying to hunt down women who’ve decided that; “I have to have an abortion. I can’t get it in my state. I’m traveling to other states.”. And yet the long reach of the law in these states is trying to grab them and pull them back. My God, what has happened to this country? What has happened here? And they’re talking about filing lawsuits in the private right of action. Like another individual should have some say in this. You realize how absurd this is? So they can file lawsuits against anyone that they suspect has had an abortion in another state. We saw it also in Indiana, still shocked that a doctor who was providing an abortion to a 10-year-old child, not even a pre-teenager, just still little kids, the doctor was reprimanded, threatened, intimidated. And now New York doctors, who are providing abortions to out-of-state patients, are being threatened as well. They want to strip them of their medical licenses, sue them, throw them in jail, even convict them of murder. Our own providers, our New York providers, are threatened by other states, governors, law enforcement officials. This is New York. We don’t respond well to threats. So last year, we passed our first SHIELD Law that would protect New York state providers from these outrageous, outrageous charges. We protected them a year ago. So if you’re a healthcare provider who provides an in-person abortion to someone from another state, that state can’t touch you, because they have to get through me first.

Today we’re talking about taking one step further, closing a loophole, or actually expanding those protections, because right now, more than half of the abortions are done with medication. Less trauma, less stress, no travel, leaving your kids that you already have. The cost of hotels and airplanes and travel. It’s time away from work. So extremists lawmakers in other states can stop their healthcare providers from supplying abortion pills. That’s your state. I feel sorry for your constituents. But they can’t stop us. They can’t stop our providers. They can’t stop New York, and that’s how we’re fighting back. So, today I’m really proud to be able to sign, days after its passage by the leaders I just referenced, I’ll sign the new SHIELD Law to protect New Yorkers who prescribe and send abortion pills to patients in states where abortion is outlawed. This means if you’re in another state, law enforcement, you want to prosecute, penalize, sue one of our healthcare providers who prescribed abortion medication, you want to do all that? We’re not going to help you. We’re not going to cooperate with out-of-state investigations. We’re not going to expedite. We’re not going to issue subpoenas. So you can continue, hell-bent down your path on continuing this radical behavior, but we’ll be just as hell-bent in stopping you. This is New York.

So other states will target, harass and scare doctors and patients, here in New York we’re protecting their rights. And we know this is going to ease the burden on women all across this country. We’ve had patients from so far away, even as far as Texas come here. And in Pennsylvania it’s legal, but there’s long wait lists, because they’re closer to other states where it’s denied. So, we’re here. We’re here to say we’re a different state. Our SHIELD Laws will protect people.

And I want to thank pioneers, champions, barrier breakers among our healthcare profession, and I’m talking about two extraordinary individuals, Dr. Linda Prine and Dr. Maggie Carpenter are here with us here today. Let’s give them another round of applause. Both of them. They have been champions at a time when our country was looking for champions, and we’ll never forget what you’ve done to bring this out into the spotlight, the ease of this methodology and how it should be available to people everywhere. And you’ve protected the rights of women all across America. That’s something to be really proud of. You’ve told me, “Governor, the second you sign this legislation, we’re going to start prescribing these pills.”, and we are minutes away from that.

It’s bold, but New Yorkers have always been bold, always champions of the movements before their time and showing other states the path forward. This does not have to be limited to the great state of New York. Follow us. Come to your senses. Know that these are basic rights that women in distress shouldn’t have to think about. This is America. Don’t forget that, because we’re better than that. We’re better than what’s happening to our country. And New York will always be that beacon of hope. We’ll always stand up, because that’s who we are. So we’ve already fought this battle. We should not have to fight it again, but we’re ready. We’re ready for battle. We’ll roll up our sleeves, suit up for war and take it on again, in the hopes that someday our granddaughters, my little granddaughter, will never ever have to question her right to control her

Governor Kathy Hochul (18:00):

… her own body.

One year ago when we had our rallies and we were so outraged over the decision, I evoked the image of the Statue of Liberty standing tall in our harbor, our safe harbor. And for 150 years, that statue has stood there facing out to the oceans telling people, ” You’re seeking freedom from oppression. This is where you come.” In these times, Lady Liberty also has to turn inward to our own country, to women who are oppressed, searching for freedom in our own country.

So today, as we sign this into law, Lady Liberty will have more than a torch in her hand; she’ll have a shield in her hand. She’ll have a shield in her hand to say, “This is how we protect the rights of not just New Yorkers, but all Americans.” It’ll always be a safe harbor, always be that place of refuge, always continue to enshrine the values that we hold dearest as New Yorkers, and that is the right to freedom.

Thank you very much for joining us here today. I’m really proud to bring up our speaker, Shelley Mayer, to talk about how she got this through the Senate in such a short time. And we’re able to make this difference right here, right now, New Yorkers. This is what we’re doing, and thank you all for being part of making history right here in New York.

Thank you.

Shelley Mayer (19:56):

Thank you, governor. We are so fortunate to have a governor who has the guts and the willingness to step into the fight and not shy away from the fight. Thank you, governor. Thank you very much.

I want to thank my partner here, assembly member Karines Reyes, for her incredible help in getting this through the assembly this week. We’re right at the end here. Speaker Carl Heastie… and of course my friend, my leader, Senate Majority Leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins… these legislative leaders and our colleagues in the legislature, and I know my colleague Senator Jessica Ramos is here, we made a stand with this. As the governor said, we’re not going backwards. We are taking the offense. We are going to bring the fight. We are going to do what is right for American women using these extraordinary women practitioners in New York who are courageous enough to engage in telemedicine and prescribe abortion medication to women outside of New York. So thank you to my legislative colleagues.

I also want to thank so many in the reproductive rights community and the academic community who helped us craft a complicated bill, and make sure that it will withstand constitutional challenge, and that we achieved a consensus of opinion that this was the right thing to do. It wasn’t an easy task, and I thank many of them who are here today for working with us collaboratively to come up with a bill that could get the governor’s signature, with her comfort level and our comfort level, that we are doing the right thing and the legally correct thing.

In overturning Roe, the Supreme Court eviscerated a nearly 50-year precedent; but in doing so, the court made clear that the authority to regulate abortion would be returned to the states. New York will not shirk its responsibilities to provide the strongest reproductive rights as possible. So our bill pairs telehealth services with medication abortion, already the preferred method of abortion in this country, to expand access nationwide. It will allow providers, licensed in New York State, acting within their scope of practice, to consult and then prescribe medication abortion to women in other states. It will also provide every protection possible for those doctors and providers and facilitators helping patients through this process. We will protect them from the potential acts of outside states and from regulatory oversight from other states. We will protect them for their courage and because it’s the right thing to do.

New York has always been and will always be a leader in reproductive freedom. Just to remind people, we legalized abortion in 1970, three years before Roe. Last year, as the governor said, we took important steps to protect people traveling to New York; and in January, we passed the Equal Rights Amendment for a second time, further safeguarding abortion from government interference when it passes through the voters.

It feels great to do something positive in the wake of Dobbs. Today, we are rejecting the decision and the thinking behind that decision. We stand here as allies with women in states where conservative state legislatures rolled back a fundamental right despite overwhelming public opinion evidence. The majorities everywhere support the right to abortion.

In New York State, we are not going backwards. We are going forward. By this action today, the signing of this important bill, we are fighting back, taking back our rights and our destinies, and standing by our sisters in the other states who have lost that power.

Thank you, governor. Thank you to my colleagues in the legislature. Thank you who all made this possible, and I am so honored and optimistic to be here today.

With that, my colleague, assemblywoman Karines Reyes.

Karines Reyes (24:23):

Good morning. Thank you, governor, for signing this meaningful bill today, which will provide more relief to hundreds of thousands of vulnerable women in New York and hostile states throughout the country. This legislation will allow our state to protect reproductive health providers that support women via telehealth, and send medication abortion resources to those women, especially those that have implemented abortion bans.

Nearly a third of states in our country have enacted bans on abortion and reproductive healthcare. This bill becoming law will bring women in those states one step closer to regaining control of their lives, liberties and bodies, so that they can live with dignity, dignity because reproductive health services go beyond the termination of a pregnancy. These bans have sweeping implications in the management of miscarriages, the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and access to contraception. Healthcare is a human right, and this bill takes our state one step further to ensuring that human right is fully afforded to all people, especially women in need of reproductive healthcare and freedom.

When we look back at this time, while other states take steps to strip women, girls, and pregnant people of their basic right, here in New York we’ll be able to say that we were on the right side of history. In New York we believe in science and we lead as such. In New York we trust our medical providers and we will protect them, so that they may live up to the fullest promise of their professional oath.

I want to express gratitude to the following individuals and organizations that have helped make this day possible. State senator, of course, Shelly Mayer, thank you so much for entrusting this legislation with me in the assembly. Speaker Heastie, assembly members, and committee chairs… Jeff Dinowitz, Amy Paulin, David Weprin, and Pat Fahey… for helping move this bill through the assembly committee. And this would not happen without the support of the advocates, such as the New York State Academy of Family Physicians, Planned Parenthood, the National Institute for Reproductive Health, New York Civil Liberties Union, the Medical Students for Choice, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists District 2, Nurses for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Pregnancy Justice, and a whole host of other groups.

And lastly I’ll say this: Dr. [inaudible 00:26:55], you are so courageous in what you do, and we do this work

Karines Reyes (27:00):

Because we believe that you should be protected because we would not be able to access care without people like yourselves. And the reason abortion was legalized in our country was because of courage of women like you. So today we stand here shoulder to shoulder with you saying thank you. Thank you. And I will bring up Dr. Linda Prine.

Shelley Mayer (27:29):

Hi, everyone. Well, everybody already said all the things I wanted to say. So I’m just going to tell you a little bit about why we formed this organization called Act Access and started down this path to get this legislation. A few of us who are in this room have been volunteering for an organization that I founded about four years ago called the Miscarriage and Abortion Hotline. We take calls 365 days a year as volunteers, 18 hours a day in six-hour shifts from women from around the country and pregnant people who are either trying to get pills, who are using pills, who need abortions and don’t know where to access them because they’re in restricted states. And the pain that they are going through and the fear and the experiences as they order pills, sometimes really quite a bit later in pregnancy than they’re supposed to be used because they’re ordering them from India or they’re getting them from Mexico and they’re trying to figure out how to do this, is just overwhelming.

We’re listening to these calls and talking people through this and we just felt like we had to do something. We had to do something. The trauma of using pills when you’re 15 or 20 weeks, it’s like not okay for people to have to be going through this. We had to solve this problem. So we read this amazing op-ed that some of our lawyer colleagues wrote about what blue states can do, and one of the ideas was we can just say that we’re going to protect clinicians and we’re going to mail pills across state lines. And we were like, “Okay, this is what we have to do.”

So we just started working on this issue with all of our might and ended up having to form an organization so we could pay ourselves for all the hours of work, but this is the one thing we can do and it’s not going to solve everything. There are still a lot of issues in these states, and we still really need to have national legislation to make abortion legal. That’s the end goal. We have to bring it back, but for now, this helps. This will unclog some of these really busy clinics that can’t take care of everybody that’s trying to get to them, like in Kansas. I have friends who work there. It’s overwhelming. People have three and four week waiting lists to get appointments just to come for pills. How crazy is that? We can mail pills in two or three days once this legislation is signed, and we will do that. And so let’s get this legislation signed.

Speaker 1 (30:23):

All right, let’s sign the bill. Please remain in your seats as the bill is signed, everyone. Just wanted to remind you all. Thank you.

Speaker 2 (30:59):

Come over. Yeah, if everyone could just try to stay down. Okay, great.

Speaker 3 (31:13):

[inaudible 00:31:18]. The bill is signed.

Speaker 1 (32:21):

Thank you, everyone. That concludes our program. Thank you so much for attending today, and have a wonderful weekend.

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