New York could become first city to provide abortion funding

Posted at 10:06 AM, Jun 15, 2019

New York is slated to become what abortion activists say would be the first city in the country to provide funding for abortions.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, both Democrats, announced a budget agreement Friday that included funding for individuals seeking abortions in the city.

The move comes as part of a wave of abortion protections springing up in Democratic legislatures in response to a slew of Republican states advancing bills restricting abortion access. Conservative lawmakers have pushed such restrictions in an effort to force a potential legal challenge to the landmark Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. Such efforts prompted New York state to pass a law earlier this year protecting abortion access in case the historic case is overturned.

The New York City budget proposal will fund $250,000 for reproductive health care services, including abortion, Jennifer Fermino, a spokeswoman for Johnson, told CNN. The council is expected to vote on the budget next week.

The fund will go largely to the New York Abortion Access Fund, a group that helps fund abortions for individuals, including those from out of state, seeking abortions in New York state.

"NYAAF is getting $250k from New York City!" the group said in a Facebook post Friday. That makes NYC the first city in the country to directly fund abortions -- and that's something to celebrate!"

Abortions usually cost about $500, Elizabeth Nash, the senior state issues manager at the reproductive rights advocacy group Guttmacher Institute, told CNN -- meaning that the city's funds could provide about 500 abortions.

Johnson said during a news conference Friday that he was "proud" of the proposal, thanking the council's female members and Women's Caucus co-chairs for their work on advancing the funding. He added that he looked "forward to working with them to figure out the best way to administer this fund with the organizations that advocated for it to target low-income women that really need this help and support."

In contrast to efforts in states like Missouri and Alabama to restrict abortion access, "this is to help low-income women in New York City who have faced barriers to access to health care get the care that they need and that they deserve," he said.

De Blasio also expressed support for the measure, saying, "We understand that there are women who need help and are having trouble getting the help they need, and the city had an opportunity here to step up."

Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, a co-chair of the Council's Women's Caucus and proponent of the funding, said news of abortion bans cropping up across the country made her feel "helpless."

"We wanted to do more, and by making New York City the first in the nation to directly fund abortion, we are finally putting our money where (our) mouth is," she added in a statement.

Advocates for the funding first approached Rivera and other caucus members earlier this year, and Rivera helped advocate for the proposal during budget negotiations, Rivera's communications and legislative director, Jeremy Unger, told CNN.

Abortion rights activists praised the decision as a statement against attempts to limit abortion elsewhere.

"Today, New York City's leaders made a loud and clear statement: no matter where you live or how much money you make, New York City is here for you," Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health Action Fund, said in a statement.

While abortion bans in other states' "hostile" legislatures "punish those seeking or providing abortions," she added, "New York is leading the charge when it comes to protecting and advancing a woman's right to make her own decisions about her body, life, and future."

Nash said the city's move "could be a really big step forward" that would ensure patients who would have had to pay out of pocket "won't have to worry abut how to scrape together the funds" for an abortion.

"We haven't seen a city provide this kind of funding for abortion, and it really sends a signal that New York is looking to not only protect rights but to put their money where their mouth is and ensure that people can actually get access to services," she added.