Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Hochul acts to promote NY's abortion rights

Governor Hochul's office

Gov. Kathy Hochul, responding to strict new abortion laws in Texas, said Monday that she’ll make New York a safe legal haven for women’s reproductive health.

“We have to stop extremists from taking women's rights away,” Hochul said at an appearance with U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and other female state and local leaders at the Women's Rights Pioneers Monument in New York City’s Central Park.

Several other states, including Mississippi, Alabama and Ohio, are considering similar laws.

Hochul said the law takes away rights that many women have taken for granted for nearly half a century.

“I guarantee I did not know I was pregnant with my first child at six weeks,” Hochul said. “I actually went on a whitewater rafting trip, it turns out, at three months because I didn't know I was pregnant. I mean, that is the reality of real people. … That is grotesquely unfair what they're expecting people to do.”

The governor said she wants to create a “safe harbor” for abortion rights in New York, which was the first state to legalize access to abortion in 1970. In 2019, New York codified into state law the right to abortion established in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade.

Hochul is directing all state agencies to coordinate a public information campaign about a woman’s right to choose an abortion in New York. She’s also developing a patients’ bill of rights to be posted in doctors’ offices and health care clinics so that women will know their rights and legal protections. Health care providers will receive updated guidance on the right to provide abortion-related care.

She also wants the state health department to ensure that medication that induces abortion is more readily available and can be accessed through telehealth visits. She’s instructing the state Health Department to update its regulations. 

And the governor is sending a letter to Facebook, asking the social media company to quell the growing misinformation about abortion laws and to help “get the truth out.” 

She said she expects results. 

“That we ensure that we don’t allow those lies to continue,” Hochul said. “That there’s accountability and responsibility at the top of those companies to help tell the truth across this nation.”

Hochul has a long history with the issue of abortion rights. She attributes the 2012 loss of her western New York congressional seat to her unwavering stance on a woman’s right to choose the procedure.

State Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said even in a blue state like New York, abortion rights can not be taken for granted. She said as a freshman senator in 2007, she carried the bill to codify the rights in Roe v. Wade into state law. She said at the time, opponents derided her as trying to “seek attention.” 

“Even here in New York, I was picketed, my offices were attacked,” said Stewart-Cousins, who added she was told “the endeavor was unnecessary because ‘this was settled law.’”

It took 12 years before the measure was approved.

The state’s Catholic Conference called Hochul’s actions “political posturing.” 

“Seriously, is there anybody in the country that doesn’t know that New York is the abortion capital of the world already?” asked Kathleen Gallagher, the conference’s director for pro-life activities. 

Gallagher said she would like the state’s leaders to put the same efforts into helping women who are struggling to continue their pregnancies.

“Where’s the bill of rights for women who choose to carry their baby to term?” she asked. 

Gallagher said the state should be making as strong an effort to inform women of access to neonatal care, health insurance coverage and child care.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.