ALBANY — On the 47th anniversary of the historic Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision, New York lawmakers gathered at the State Capitol to push for passage of a bill that would establish a fund for abortions.
The New York State Abortion Access Fund, sponsored by state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, D-34, would establish a fund that would provide logistical and financial support for women who cannot afford abortion care. If the legislation passes, taxpayers will be able to voluntarily contribute to the fund on their personal income tax returns by checking a box.
“This year we must take the next step in our fight for reproductive justice ... to ensure that access to abortion is not just a right under New York state law, but a reality,” Biaggi said at a news conference Wednesday.
The funds would be distributed by the state Department of Health through a grant process to nonprofit organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, to support operational and program expenses.
Legislators and advocates who spoke at the press conference said that while the state Legislature took a huge step toward reproductive justice last year with the passage of the Reproductive Health Act, which codified Roe v. Wade into state law, many barriers to accessing safe and healthy abortion care faced by people who are low-income, young, of color or undocumented remain.
Those obstacles include travel expenses, child care and the cost of the procedure itself, which starts at nearly $400, according to Planned Parenthood.
“(Government) will pass fantastic legislation that does great things, without thinking about the fact that if you are poor and working class, often you can’t access that justice,” said Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, D-39. “We can pass laws so we have safe abortion, but if you do not have the money, this law does not benefit you.”
About one out of every four women will have an abortion by the age of 45, according to Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization that conducts reproductive health research. Studies have found that abortion mortality, or dying from an abortion procedure, is significantly dependent on whether there is access to legal abortion.
“Abortion is a medical procedure,” said the bill’s Assembly sponsor Karines Reyes, D-87. “We should treat it as such.”
Massarah Mikati covers the New York State Legislature and immigration for Johnson Newspaper Corp. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find her on Twitter @massarahmikati.