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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signs law to protect doctors providing out-of-state telehealth abortion pill prescriptions

New York law protects abortion providers from out-of-state lawsuits
New York law protects abortion providers from out-of-state lawsuits 02:40

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a law on Friday, almost exactly a year after Roe v. Wade was overturned, that legally protects New York doctors who prescribe abortion pills to patients living in states where the procedure has been outlawed. 

The New York State Legislature passed the bill last week by a 99 to 45 margin; the bill cleared the state Senate last month by a vote of 39 to 22. 

"We are witnessing a shameful regression of women's rights in this country as abortion access is restricted in states across the nation," said Hochul. "With this bill, New York is continuing to fight back against restrictive abortion laws and help more people access the care they need."

The bill specifically aims to protect doctors in New York who are using telehealth systems — which allow them to take on patients residing in other states. Telehealth allows those patients from having to travel out-of-state in order to undergo an abortion. It builds upon legislation passed last year that aimed to protect New York reproductive health care providers from out-of-state litigation, but specifically addresses telehealth — which had not been named in the 2022 laws. 

"I continue to be deeply concerned with anti-choice activists' efforts to undermine doctors in their ability to adequately provide for their patients and to undermine the patient's control of their own body," said Assemblymember Karines Reyes, a registered nurse herself, who sponsored the bill.

"These anti-choice bills have a tangibly negative impact on patients' health and well-being and New York refuses to stand for it," Reyes added.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many turned to virtual visits to receive myriad types of healthcare from home during quarantine, with telehealth consumer adoption rates increasing from 11% in 2019, to 46% in 2020, per the McKinsey COVID-19 consumer survey. 

New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie called telehealth "the future of healthcare" in a statement Tuesday, adding that "as anti-choice extremists continue to roll back reproductive care across the country, New York remains a sanctuary state for access." 

"It is our moral obligation to help women across the country with their bodily autonomy by protecting New York doctors from litigation efforts from anti-choice extremists," Heastie continued. 

June 24 marks one year since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating federally-protected abortion in the U.S. and turning the choice over to state legislatures. Since then, according to Planned Parenthood, abortion access has been "eliminated" in 13 states and "severely restricted" in four others.

Consequently, medication-induced abortions now account for 54% of all abortions in the U.S., with access to a common abortion pill, mifepristone, subject to ongoing lawsuits that aim to restrict access. The Supreme Court upheld FDA approval of the pill in April, granting a request from the Department of Justice and maintaining access to the pill — for now.

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