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A bill would allow New York residents to contribute on their tax returns, allocating money to nonprofit organizations that help women travel and pay for abortions.
New Yorkers would have the option to contribute to a state-run abortion access fund via their tax returns under a bill making its way through the state legislature.
The legislation would establish the New York State Abortion Access Fund, a state-run account comprised of voluntary donations from taxpayers. The money would not pay for abortions directly; instead, it would be used “to fund the operational and programmatic expenses of not-for-profit entities that provide support to individuals in need of abortion services, by addressing financial and logistical barriers that prevent access to care.”
That could include the cost of travel, lodging or other logistical expenses for both New York residents and out-of-state visitors, depending on the nonprofits that receive disbursements from the fund.
The legislation does not include a list of eligible organizations, but would require the state comptroller to provide the legislature with an annual summary of payments, including their recipients and details about how the money is used. The bill prohibits the state from requiring those organizations to divulge the names or contact information of patients who receive that funding or the group’s employees, contractors or volunteers.
The fund would be separate from the existing New York Abortion Access Fund, a nonprofit run by volunteers that does not receive contributions from the state.
Abortion is legal in New York, where legislators in 2019 codified Roe v. Wade into state law and legalized the procedure after 24 weeks of pregnancy if the mother’s health is at risk or the fetus is no longer viable. But access to the procedure remains inequitable, and many women with financial struggles rely on help from volunteer organizations to obtain the care they need, state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, the legislation’s lead sponsor, said in a statement.
“While abortion access is deemed a right under New York State law, many people face financial barriers such as travel expenses, child care expenses, and the cost of the procedure itself, limiting their access to abortion and reproductive healthcare,” she said. “Abortion access organizations work to address these obstacles and provide necessary support to those seeking an abortion. These organizations are sustained by donations and are predominantly staffed by volunteers who function as case managers working with patients and providers.”
Biaggi, a Democrat from the Bronx, introduced a version of the legislation in 2019, which failed to advance out of committee. This year’s legislation comes as Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a host of abortion access initiatives, including a public information campaign, a patient bill of rights and updated guidance for providers on “the right to provide abortion care.” Hochul said the proposals were in part a response to Texas’ new abortion law, which prevents the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy and does not allow exceptions for victims of rape or incest.
"Abortion access is safe in New York - the rights of those who are seeking abortion services will always be protected here," she said in a statement. "This plan will affirm that in our state, and leaders like Senator Gillibrand will fight on a national level. To the women of Texas, I want to say I am with you. Lady Liberty is here to welcome you with open arms."
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.