Assemblymember Lavine Fights for Abortion Rights Through New Legislation

Glen Cove, New York – Assemblymember Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) is sponsoring new legislation to protect abortion rights. The New York Santoro Provider Protection Act of 2023 (A6904) comes as more and more states are passing their own legislation restricting women’s reproductive rights in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s repudiation of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision and as a court battle rages over access to the abortion drug mifepristone.

The bill is named after Santoro, who died from an unsafe abortion in 1964, and whose death inspired abortion rights activists. It provides protection for women seeking abortions and related medical services, whether or not they reside in New York. In addition, it aims to prevent harm from unsafe and unregulated abortions and to mitigate the disproportionate impact of abortion bans on indigent women and women of color. A key component of the legislation is funding for those who are low-income and who may need to travel across one or more states to receive access to care.

“New York must continue to be a national leader in protecting women’s reproductive rights - which are human rights,” Lavine said. “We will not sit passively as states with authoritarian governments enact laws suppressing freedom as they work to restrict or outright ban abortion.”

The New York Santoro Provider Protection Act of 2023 will provide:

A Telehealth Shield Provision: The bill allows New York medical providers to provide telemedicine abortion services to patients outside New York and shields providers from extraterritorial lawsuits and abortion-related prosecutions.

A Travel Program: The bill creates a not-for-profit corporation that would accept public funds and private donations to fund travel and lodging for pregnant women seeking to access abortion services in New York, with the funds administered by the Department of Health. The public-private partnership fund will provide financial assistance for travel and abortion services to women from states where abortions are either illegal or unavailable, regardless of geography or economic means.

Immunity: Immunity from suits would extend to private individuals or entities acting under contracts with DOH to provide abortion services and to common carriers.

Defense and Indemnification: Recipients of a certificate of immunity from the N.Y. DOH would be entitled to a legal defense and indemnification through an amendment to Section 17 of the Public Officer’s Law (Defense and Indemnification of State Officers and Employees). If the provider were sued or indicted, the State would defend them at its cost (but using available pro bono counsel where possible).

Health Insurance: To the extent permitted by law, the program will seek to obtain reimbursement from the patient’s health insurance.