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Hochul establishes $35M fund to help people seeking abortions in New York

Gov. Kathy Hochul announces a budget deal from behind a podium, April 7, 2022
WXXI Mike Groll
Office Of Governor Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul announces a budget deal from behind a podium, April 7, 2022

One day after state Attorney General Tish James called for a law to provide $50 million dollars to New York abortion clinics to serve out-of-state patients, Gov. Kathy Hochul says she can immediately free up $35 million dollars for the clinics.

Hochul announced the new funding in reaction to the leaked U.S. Supreme Court opinion that seeks to overturn the 1973 landmark abortion rights decision Roe v. Wade.

The governor says the funds will subsidize travel, lodging and other expenses associated with the procedure, to be used for people who live in states where abortion would be banned if the Supreme Court strikes down Roe.

“I’m directing the department of health to create New York’s first fund ever to support abortion providers,” Hochul said. “Twenty-five million dollars will expand capacity and access for patients seeking abortion care, (the) largest fund of its kind in our nation.”

Hochul spoke via Zoom after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, although she is asymptomatic.

The governor says $10 million dollars will also be available to increase security protections for clinics. The funding comes from the health department’s emergency fund, controlled by the state’s health commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett. The money would be ready for distribution as soon as the court acts.

“We’re being proactive. I’ve said I’m better at playing offense than defense in anything I do,” Hochul said.

It might take a few weeks to finalize the criteria and get the applications out to providers. “We’re anticipating to have this go live as soon as that Supreme Court decision comes down,” she said.

Hochul was joined virtually by leaders of Planned Parenthoods across the state and lawmakers, including Senate Finance Committee Chair Liz Krueger. Krueger also supports the law introduced Monday by the attorney general that would provide $50 million dollars in funding. Krueger predicts that more money will be needed.

“I’m sorry governor, it’s probably a down payment on other monies that we are going to need,” Kruger said. She predicts that women who come from other states will be disproportionately young, low income and people of color.

While the state Democratic leaders support the funding, some Republicans do not. GOP Chair Nick Langworthy issued statement calling Hochul’s announcement “manufactured hysteria designed to distract from the absolute dumpster fire they’ve created in New York.”

Langworthy says the governor and other New York Democrats should be focusing on the rising crime rate and high cost of living instead.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment and interviews newsmakers. Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.