Access to abortion care isn't going anywhere in New York, but some lawmakers want to curtail how public dollars are used for those services in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Within hours of the court's historic decision Friday, Sen. Phil Boyle, a Republican from Bay Shore, introduced legislation to ban taxpayer monies for abortions for out-of-staters.
Thousands of women from other states are expected to travel to New York for reproductive health care and procedures after abortions were banned in dozens of states after the Supreme Court's decision.
"I do not want New York state taxpayers to have to pay for airfare, overnight hotel expenses and abortion procedures for non-residents," Boyle said.
The legislation was not assigned a bill number as of Monday night. A lawmaker has not been named to spearhead the counterpart in the Assembly.
Gov. Kathy Hochul in May signed an executive order committing $35 million of state Health Department and Division of Criminal Justice Services funds for abortion providers to expand their facilities and boost security at abortion clinics with the anticipated surge of patients.
A spokeswoman with Gov. Hochul referred to statements the governor made about the $35 million fund last week about keeping New York a safe haven for women seeking abortion services.
The $35 million cannot cover expenses for patients or administrative salaries. Security-related expenses are funded under a separate process through DCJS, according to the governor's office.
Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas, a Democrat from Queens, sponsors legislation to make the governor's idea permanent with $50 million to create the Reproductive Freedom and Equity fund. The fund, to be negotiated in the state budget each year, would cover abortion services for uninsured or underinsured people, provide grants to nonprofits that help pregnant women access abortion care and help abortion providers expand services and retain staff.
"[The governor's] $35 million-dollar fund, is really great, and an important downpayment," González-Rojas said. "But we need to codify this into law and continue to provide the resources and funding so that we can be a true safe access state for people across the country given the hostile decision that came out of the Supreme Court."
The Reproductive Freedom and Equity fund would ensure New York remains a haven for people seeking reproductive health care in states where abortion is restricted, and could be used for travel or gas expenses, lodging, meals, childcare, translation services or doula support for an out-of-state person's treatment.
"This is a part of the full scope of reproductive health care people need and it should be provided by public resources as other forms of health care are," González-Rojas said.
The bill, backed by state Attorney General Letitia James and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, failed to pass with the package of legal protections expanded to abortion providers and patients at the end of session on the heels of Hochul's separate $35 million commitment.
Lawmakers are not expected to take up González-Rojas' bill to make the fund permanent when they return to Albany on Thursday to strengthen the state's concealed carry laws.
Democrats in both houses will conference Wednesday to discuss taking up the bill and the failed Equality constitutional amendment to codify abortion rights into New York's constitution in a separate special session Thursday.
"I'm going to remain optimistic," González-Rojas added.
Boyle has discussed legislation to ban public funds for abortion care or related costs for non-New Yorkers since the SCOTUS decision was leaked in early May.
Boyle, a self-described libertarian on abortion rights, said he's been surprised by the number of moderate Democrats and pro-choice lawmakers against state money aiding covering care for out-of-staters.
"When I ask them, 'What about our taxpayers' funding for women coming from other states to receive abortions,' they are 'No way, no how, I don't want to pay for it,'" Boyle recalled, adding they told him, '"They have that right, they should have that right protected, but I don't want to pay for it.' And I'm talking about some very far-left individuals."
In wake of his conversations, Boyle said several lawmakers would vote to ban the use of state funds for abortion care for out-of-state residents but will not publicly admit it. The senator, who is retiring and not running for re-election this fall, is confident the bill will have bipartisan support.
Of the $35 million Hochul set aside to bolster abortion services, the Health Department is releasing $10 million to organizations funded under the Comprehensive Family Planning Program or through a specific grant, or medical or providers that have performed a surgical abortion within the last year.
Funding cannot be used to supplant existing resources, and must increase a provider's capacity or ability to perform abortion services, according to the governor's office.
The Health Department sent letters to CFPP-funded organizations explaining funding eligibility and how to apply. Applications were due June 10.
The other $15 million will become available for other organizations with experience providing medical or surgical abortion services in the coming weeks.
Hochul previously announced an additional $10 million for reproductive health care centers to access security grants, to be distributed through a bid process.
The Request For Proposal is expected to be issued in the next two weeks, a governor's spokesperson said.