Access to Abortion is Under Threat in NY

In the face of attacks on basic reproductive rights, New York must once again be a leader in expanding care for its residents and anyone who needs it.

Fifty years ago, New York first opened its doors to people from across the U.S. who needed abortion care. Now, following the Supreme Court’s decision to gut Roe, numerous states have banned or severely restricted abortion care. In the face of this attack on basic reproductive rights, New York must once again be a leader in expanding care for its residents and anyone who needs it.

Even though abortion is legal in New York, people still face steep barriers trying to access abortion across the state. We talk about how to close those gaps and how to strengthen New York’s position as a leader when it comes to abortion rights with Allie Bohm, senior policy counsel for the NYCLU and Chelsea Williams-Diggs, Executive Director of the New York Abortion Access Fund.

Since we recorded this episode, the state legislature passed a version of one of the bills we discussed, the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program. This is a historic step to make abortion rights a reality for everyone in our state. The program creates a sustainable state funding mechanism for abortion providers and abortion funds, bringing us closer to a world where New Yorkers can freely make decisions about their futures and bodies. But the version of the bill passed by the legislature does not include funding for things like hotel stays or other travel costs for patients seeking an abortion. And it also doesn’t include money for capital improvements for abortion providers. So, there’s still more work to do.

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Join the campaign to pass the New York Equal Rights Amendment.

Find out more and get involved with the New York Abortion Access Fund.

Tell legislators to support the bills mentioned in this podcast.


Allie: [00:00:00] We hope we are safe here, but rather than hope, we should really be enshrining these rights in our Constitution to guarantee that no matter who is in office, our rights and freedoms are going to be permanently protected here in New York.

Chelsea: This is going to be a long fight. In order for us to continue to do this fight, to be on this road, We need to make sure that abortion funds are well resourced and have the infrastructure to continue to support folks accessing care.

Simon: Welcome to Rights This Way, a podcast from the New York Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of New York State. I’m Simon McCormack, senior staff writer at the NYCLU. And your host for this podcast, which is focused on the civil rights and liberties issues that impact New Yorkers most.

50 years ago, New York first opened its doors to people from across the U. S. who needed abortion care. [00:01:00] Now, following the Supreme Court’s decision to gut Roe, numerous states have banned or severely restricted abortion care. In the face of this attack on basic reproductive rights, New York must once again be a leader in expanding care For its residents and anyone who needs it.

Even though abortion is legal in New York, people still face steep barriers trying to access abortion across the state. We’ll talk about how to close those gaps and how to strengthen New York’s position as a leader. When it comes to abortion rights. Since we recorded this episode, the state legislature passed a version of one of the bills we discussed.

The Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program. This is a historic step to make abortion rights a reality for everyone in our state. The program creates a sustainable state funding mechanism for abortion providers and abortion funds. Bringing us closer to a world where New Yorkers can freely make decisions about their futures and bodies.

But the version of the bill passed by the legislature does [00:02:00] not include funding for things like hotel stays or other travel costs for patients seeking an abortion. And it also doesn’t include money for capital improvements for abortion providers. So there’s still more work to do. Before we get started, just a quick note.

That outside guests on this show do not represent the NYCLU and their views are their own. And now I’m joined by two guests. Allie Bohm is a senior policy counsel for the NYCLU and Chelsea Williams-Diggs is the executive director of the New York Abortion Access Fund. Allie, Chelsea, welcome. Welcome to Rights This Way.

Chelsea: Hi, Simon. Thank you for having us.

Allie: Yeah, thank you.

Simon: Of course. So, I think the fall of Roe has made people acutely aware that protections we count on for our rights can and are sometimes taken away and that laws can quickly change. So, even though abortion is a big issue, [00:03:00] Allie, can you tell us about the effort ongoing and actually launched the day that we’re recording this to codify abortion into New York’s constitution via something called the New York Equal Rights Amendment?

Allie: Thanks for the question, Simon. The NYCLU is part of the ballot initiative committee that is aiming to pass the New York Equal Rights Amendment on the 2024 ballot.

I mean, I think the Dobbs decision made clear to many of us, if we hadn’t realized it already, that if our rights are not explicitly written down, They can be taken away. And so here in New York, we’re not going to take any chances. So among other things, the ERA would protect New Yorkers freedom to control our own bodies, lives, and future, and would explicitly enshrine the right to abortion in our state constitution, both as a matter of equality and as a matter of preventing sex discrimination.

And in that way, it actually goes [00:04:00] beyond Roe v. Wade, because Roe was sort of grounded in this penumbras of privacy that felt a little bit ephemeral, and as we can tell, didn’t really stand the test of time, and in some ways didn’t really include everybody. So we are trying to do better here in New York, and it matters because we are at a time where Policymakers and courts across the country are narrowing and rescinding rights.

We are going to embed explicit protections within our constitution so that the right to abortion can’t be repealed no matter who is in charge in New York. And that is a necessary step to meeting this national moment.

Simon: Just a few days before we released this episode, Attorney General Tish James appealed the Livingston County judge’s decision that would take the New York ERA off the ballot in November, denying New Yorkers the opportunity to vote for a constitutional amendment that protects us all from government discrimination.

Simon: But we are confident that justice will prevail [00:05:00] and that the New York ERA will be on the ballot in November.

And Allie, you touched on this a bit in your answer just now. If someone’s listening and they hear that there’s this ERA coming that’s gonna protect abortion, let’s say they think, well, abortion is already legal in this state, the governor supports it, and broad majorities in the state legislature support it.

So, why do we need the ERA for abortion? Can I just kick back and let those rights continue? Why is that not the thing to do?

Allie: Ah, come on, Simon, you know we can’t kick back, uh. I don’t want to scare people, but there’s a reason that New York did not pass the Reproductive Health Act, which decriminalized abortion, until 2019.

Y’all. 2019 was like five minutes ago. Pro choice, pro reproductive freedom leaders have only controlled both chambers of our legislature. For eight of the past 58 years, and [00:06:00] Lee Zeldin, an anti abortion politician, came within six and a half percentage points of winning the last New York state governor’s election.

So if we think we are safe here, we hope we are safe here, but rather than hope, we should really be enshrining these rights in our constitution to guarantee that no matter who is in office, Our rights and freedoms are going to be permanently protected here in New York.

Simon: Chelsea, I want to turn to you and move us a little bit from the conversation of a person’s right to an abortion and move it into the actual ability to access abortion.

So to start, can you tell us a bit about your work and what the New York Abortion Access Fund does?

Chelsea: Sure. So I appreciate the framing of that, right? The New York Abortion Access Fund, or NIAF for short, it really bridges the gap between rights and access. And really, abortion funds [00:07:00] across the country have been doing that for decades.

So what I always like to remind people is that abortion funds and NIAF existed long before the Dobbs decision, and they existed when Roe was the law of the land. So, abortion funds have been bridging the gap between rights and access in different contexts, right, during, row, and after, and of course, throughout the country in different state contexts as well.

At NIAF specifically, we are hyper focused on supporting the most marginalized New Yorkers. I’m talking low income, working class folks. Young people, uh, young parents, queer folks, black, brown, other folks of color, undocumented and recently migrated people, and on and on, right? The most overly policed, surveilled, and really unprotected folks that often are found in places where they’re struggling to access the things that we claim our rights are supposedly protected in New York.

And we also [00:08:00] focus on supporting folks who are traveling to New York to access abortion care. And as you can imagine, that is a lot of people these days who are coming here from all types of states in all different contexts to ask, to access care, excuse me. And basically what we do is we pay for people’s abortions.

So I’ll get into it a bit more on the barriers and why folks are struggling to, to pay for their abortions. But we come in and we quite literally move funds directly on behalf of the folks who are in most need so that they can access the care that they deserve. And we work in partnership with clinics across the state, right, in New York city and in other rural, smaller towns in other parts of New York, so that folks everywhere can get care and can do so with ease.

The love and support that they deserve.

Simon: And yeah, Chelsea, let’s get into a bit of the, some of those barriers, because similar to what I asked Allie, abortion is legal in New York. [00:09:00] So what are those barriers that keep people from being able to access it?

Chelsea: Yeah, it’s interesting because I get this question both informal and informal spaces and depending on my mood that day I, I, I answer it with a maybe a different tone, but today I want to be true to where I’m at I’m feeling a bit frustrated with the way that folks talk about abortion access in New York So I’m just gonna speak from the heart today, right?

I think that it’s important for us to Acknowledge that we do not live in some abortion utopia in New York. There is nowhere in the country, and I argue in the world, where abortion freedom or reproductive justice have been realized. So it’s, it for me can sometimes feel a bit arrogant for folks in New York to be like, everything’s so great here.

And oh, those poor folks in XYZ state or region. And I want to honor that. Yes. Uh, abortion is legal in New York and it is not legal in, in many states [00:10:00] in the country. It’s also has less restrictions, right, than other states across the country. So that is a privilege that we should acknowledge and honor.

And at the same time, we need to also acknowledge the places that we are not doing right. by the most marginalized. And that is really important, right? To ignore the experiences of people who are struggling to access abortion in your own community. It’s so disheartening. It almost is a way of ignoring folks humanity.

And I think that falls into this, these trends of like coastal elitism plus anti Southern sentiment. And I think it’s important to say like, again, honoring, yes, there Things are better for folks here, but they’re not perfect, and there are still many people who are struggling. So, okay, now that I’ve got off my soapbox, I’ll, like, tell you who the people that are struggling are.

But I just, I wanted to say that. I feel like it’s been on my heart, and I encourage everyone to really take a harder look around. And actually, the one other thing I want to say is, [00:11:00] it’s so interesting to me how so many New Yorkers are so aware of other types of inequality that exist in our state, and yet, somehow, when it comes to abortion, there’s this, like, Everything’s so great here.

And it’s like, come on, y’all. We know that all these things intersect. We know that housing, economic policing, immigration are all things that are on everybody’s minds in New York city and in the state. And of course that means that abortion access is going to, because many of these folks have the ability to get pregnant.

And many of these folks. Will one day not want to be pregnant, right? We know a decent amount of folks with the ability to get pregnant will choose to have an abortion in their lifetime. So going into the actual, like real barriers. So first and foremost, I’m going to talk about New Yorkers and then I’ll kind of end it with folks who are traveling here.

So, we know that in New York State, state insurance, including Medicaid, is mandated to cover abortion, or insurance that is regulated by [00:12:00] New York State. And that is a big deal, right? Let’s give credit where credit is due. I spend a lot of time talking about the things that are wrong. I will give credit there.

However, so many people don’t have insurance, and so many people that do have insurance don’t have insurance that’s regulated by the state. So we think about the ways that, of course, health care broadly in our country and in our state are so messy and inequitable and difficult. And we know that abortion is the most stigmatized form of health care.

So you take all the other inequities of health care and the confusion, I mean, most of us are confused about our own health care plans as it relates to just, I don’t know, regular checkups, right? And then you kind of add in the way that abortion has been stigmatized and siloed and really. pushed out of the kind of mainstream healthcare system, and we recognize that so many people then struggle to access it.

So particularly as it relates to insurance coverage, as I mentioned, many folks just don’t have insurance. [00:13:00] Folks might be Medicaid eligible, but not be able to enroll quick enough. Or are many people are just not Medicaid eligible and are struggling to be insured, right? So that’s a large group of folks.

And then of course you have folks who are insured, but their insurance is regulated either by the federal government or by another state’s government. In all cases under the federal government, but in other cases, abortion is not covered. So, so many people, we think about the Hyde Amendment. People often think about the Hyde Amendment as an issue that doesn’t show up in New York because through state funding we allow Medicaid to cover abortion, but that’s just not true because there are so many federal employees that live in the state, right?

And then of course other folks who are there because of their employer have insurance that’s regulated either through the federal government or through other state government. So those are large groups of people. Then we have folks who are young people, for example, who are still on their parents insurance and that [00:14:00] is in another state, maybe they’re under the age of 26 or they’re in school in New York and their insurance doesn’t cover abortion.

Then we have folks who have Medicaid, have insurance that covers abortion, but they cannot find a provider in their community that takes that insurance, right? Or they don’t take that insurance or Medicaid after a certain gestational age. And gestational age, I, you know, you get so in your own bubble. So basically like weeks of pregnancy for folks who are like, what?

And that’s huge, right? Because we know that as you get later in pregnancy, abortion becomes more expensive. And And actually, this is probably where I should have started, right? Abortion is expensive. If you are paying out of pocket for abortion, which a whole lot of people are, including some of the, the groups that I’ve just listed, you are starting at about 600 for a first trimester abortion.

That includes a procedural abortion, as well as a medication abortion, or what they call, like, a lot of folks call abortion pills. So 600 bucks, I mean, is not a small amount of money, right? [00:15:00] Most people in our country can’t afford any type of emergency, never mind a medical emergency. It’s a lot of money.

And if you are pregnant and you have a medical emergency and don’t have an extra couple hundred dollars to go towards anything, right? So that’s starting, then abortion can get very expensive, very quickly right? Week by week, you see kind of the price go up. So we’re talking about 30, 000 for procedures that are later in pregnancy.

And or for folks that have medical certain medical conditions or complexity. 30, 000 is a lot of money. And If you are later in pregnancy and you have Medicaid, by nature of being on Medicaid, you are low income, right? And now you’re not able to use that Medicaid or use your insurance after certain gestation.

Now you’re hit with a 30, 000 bill. People who probably consider themselves upper middle class can’t Shell out 30, 000. Never mind folks who are by our state in the country’s definition low income can’t meet those So it’s a large amount [00:16:00] of folks who are really struggling to access care And that is just what we’re talking about the actual cost of the procedure Then we also have to think about taking time off of work Taking Ubers or traveling, even if you’re able to access care in your community or close to your community, you still have to get there, right?

And that can cost money, child care. Now, if you’re traveling, then we’re talking flights or trains, we’re talking hotels, we’re talking additional transportation from the train station or from the airport, I don’t know if y’all like that. Taking a taxi or another ride share from LaGuardia or JFK, they cost a lot of money, as of course do hotels in the city.

And those include folks who are traveling within the state, right? A lot of folks in other parts of New York have to travel to New York City because there are less providers in their region that provide care after the first trimester. And then, lastly, I’ll end it with the, the obvious group of people that people, most people, even the New Yorkers who think [00:17:00] everything is wonderful, I hope they’re aware, that people are traveling here for care.

So if you’re traveling from a banned or severely restricted state, and you’re coming into, to New York, Again, who’s paying for that? You might have the legal right to get care in New York. You might have legal protections. The doctors may be protected. All these things. But at the end of the day, this care costs money, right?

Who is paying for that? Who is paying for that care? And who is paying for all the additional costs that are associated with it? If you’re traveling out of state into New York, you’re definitely taking time off. work, right? You can’t kind of fly in, fly out the next day, right? You’re definitely taking time.

You need child care, you need hotels, all those different things. So to wrap up, right, there are a lot of barriers and gaps. And every day I learn of something new, by the way, as someone who does this work day to day, and it is huge. And abortion funds are really key to bridging those gaps.

Simon: And Chelsea, just really quickly, can you tell listeners who might not know what the Hyde Amendment is?

Chelsea: So the Hyde Amendment [00:18:00] is a federal law that bans federal monies from covering abortion. So Medicaid, which of course is New York, finds a loop around and uses state funding to cover it. But most states in the country, their Medicaid cannot cover abortion. And additionally, Other federally regulated insurances.

So for example, if you are a federal employee, if you are a member of the military, your insurance comes from the federal government and thus cannot cover abortion. And what I want to say quickly about the Hyde Amendment that I think is really important is it’s, this is not some coincidence. This was an intentional law passed shortly after Roe to ensure that the Poor people and the most marginalized were not able to access care.

So Henry Hyde, former senator who introduced the Hyde Amendment, was quoted as saying, I can’t find his exact quote, but basically some version of, if I can’t ban abortion for everybody, we need to at least ban it for poor people. Right? So the Hyde Amendment is [00:19:00] an intentional barrier that targets the most marginalized Americans. And it is still in place.

Allie: That is a huge, so the Hyde Amendment was the first federal ban, and it was specifically a ban on Medicaid funding, and as Chelsea says, Henry Hyde was like, I would like to ban abortion for everybody, but I can keep these poor people from getting abortions, and so that’s what I’m gonna do.

Really pernicious, and since then there has just been a pile on and pile on. of federal bans on funding for abortion. Federal exemptions that deny funding to states if the state wanted to require a healthcare provider to provide abortion, or a hospital to provide abortion. Really pernicious activity there.

Simon: And so, Chelsea, you’ve described why abortion funds are so critical. I’m curious to start with you, Chelsea. What can state lawmakers do to [00:20:00] strengthen abortion funds?

Chelsea: Yes. Thank you for the question. I think the first thing that lawmakers can do to strengthen their local abortion fund is to know that we exist.

It’s so important to understand that there are local funds. in every state of the country or most states of the country who are doing amazing work on the ground to get folks care. So it’s important to know who we are, and once you know who we are, it’s important to listen to us, to center us, and to elevate our expertise.

We see things that nobody else is seeing. We understand gaps and barriers from a really unique vantage point. And we are the ones who are helping people get care despite all the other things happening in our ecosystem. So while there is so many wonderful people doing wonderful work as it relates to abortion access, if your abortion fund is not part of these conversations, is not looped in, if you aren’t following them on social media, or again, just know who they [00:21:00] are and looped into their work, you are missing a really critical piece.

And I would argue, right, that then you’re not, fully understanding the landscape and you’re not fully making access possible. The second thing that you can do is invest in us. And by invest in us, I mean, give us money. What we do is fund abortion, right? And it takes money to do that. And while I honor the beauty of the grassroots donations and the community giving and the community care that is really central to abortion funds, we have to recognize that the magnitude of this crisis Means that there needs to be government action, also philanthropic, but government action, right?

And that needs to be both this, uh, local city and the state level. So giving us funds and money so that we can continue to make sure that access is actually realized. I want to say that this fight, this journey, is going to be a long one, right? [00:22:00] Contrary to a lot of talking points from some of our politicians, right, this isn’t all going to be fixed shortly if we vote the right way, right?

There is a lot of things that are happening at the state level, across our country, and in the Supreme Court right now. This is going to be a long fight. fight. In order for us to continue to do this fight, to be on this road, we need to make sure that abortion funds are well resourced and have the infrastructure to continue to support folks accessing care.

Allie: And I’ll chime in to like, make that a little bit more, Hey, New York lawmakers, I got a bill for you to pass. Um, I want to bring it back to something that Chelsea said earlier, which is that abortion funds. bridge the gap. We like to talk about New York as an access state. We like to talk about how the right to abortion is secure here.

The right to abortion doesn’t mean anything if people cannot afford care, if people can’t actually access care. We’re not an access state unless people are getting the care they need here. And money is a big piece of that [00:23:00] equation, as Chelsea has said. We are urging lawmakers to pass the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Fund, which would create a sustainable state funding mechanism for the entire abortion ecosystem.

So that means providers, right? It’s nice that the governor has been giving one time money to providers in the last couple of years. You know what you can’t do? You can’t hire based on one time funding. Even if the governor’s staff is like, yeah, we, I mean, we did it last year too. We’re doing it this year.

We’ll probably do it next year. Like that’s not good enough to hire somebody because you don’t want to have to lay them off in a year. If it turns out that like, yeah, we think we’re going to do it. Doesn’t turn out to be, we are doing it. So sustainability, but it also funds abortion funds and logistical support funds.

And let me just say here. Abortion funds generally are paying for the care itself and some wraparound logistical support funds are paying for everything else, right? Does the patient need a bus ticket? Do they need a plane ticket? Do they need a train ticket down from upstate New York into the city? [00:24:00] Do they need childcare?

Because most abortion patients have existing children. They’ll pay for that. Do they need a hotel because they’re having a two day procedure? They’ll pay for that. They’ll pay for the Ubers the taxis. Trying to be inclusive here. There are other ride sharing apps I should be name checking. But funding the entire ecosystem, it’s great to think about the provider side, but if we’re not thinking about the patient side and the patients can’t get there, it doesn’t matter.

So we really need the sustainable fund to make access to care a reality for people across the state. We were really psyched the Senate put it in. So that’s great. It is on the table for budget negotiations right now. For those listeners at home who are not spending their time in Albany, I am jealous. No, just kidding.

But to land where we are in the process now, the governor in January put out her budget proposal. It is her shot across the bow. Here’s what she’d like to see get done in the budget. Just last week the assembly in [00:25:00] the senate released what are called their one house budgets. That’s their response Okay, that was a nice proposal You had their governor, but here’s what we’d really like to see get done And now they are going to go into what are called three way negotiations Really creatively named because they are three way negotiations between the senate the assembly and the governor And then they will produce a final budget that Ideally, if we are extremely lucky, we’ll get enacted by the constitutional deadline of April 1st.

If I were a betting woman, I would say, stay tuned for sometime later in April for it to get enacted. But the important part is that the Senate has put the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Fund on hold. on the table in these negotiations. And so this is an awesome time if you are listening at home, or if you are a lawmaker and you are listening at late night in your office in Albany to be talking about the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Fund to the people who are making the decisions here and talking about how very important it [00:26:00] is that our lawmakers enact the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Fund in this year’s budget.

Chelsea: And I, if I can add to that, if you are a lawmaker listening or if you are just a regular New Yorker who wants to go yell at your lawmaker, please understand that the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Fund would support, as Allie mentioned, the full abortion access ecosystem. And guess who is going to benefit most from that?

Residents. New Yorkers. As I listed out earlier, there are a whole lot of New Yorkers that are falling through the gaps, right? We cannot continue to pretend that we are just investing money in folks who are traveling here for care. That is just not true. The majority of NIAFS callers remain resident New Yorkers, right?

The vast majority, 67 percent of last year of callers were resident New Yorkers. Yes, a good chunk of folks are traveling here, but when they’re traveling here, they’re also [00:27:00] accessing care directly at clinics. So the money that would go and invest both in clinic infrastructure and security, as well as abortion funds and practical support networks, would all be spent in New York State, either on New Yorkers, mostly on New Yorkers, But in some instances on people traveling in here, but directly to New York based clinics, and of course, New York hotels and Uber, taxis, Lyfts, and so on and so forth.

So it’s a really important understanding that this is not a save your bill for folks who are traveling here. Although I am. totally about supporting people who are traveling here, right? This is an investment in the New York landscape of abortion access, and it will affect and benefit New Yorkers most.

Simon: And Allie, to Chelsea’s point about this impacting all of us, what New Yorkers, as well as people from out of state, the states that have banned abortion have not stopped there. Uh, many of them are [00:28:00] actively trying to surveil and track down people from their state who travel to places like New York to receive abortion care.

What can New York lawmakers do to make sure that New York protects people seeking care, people who help people who are seeking care, and people who are providing that?

Allie: Sure. So, yeah, I think a lot has been said about the bills that we passed, laws we passed in 2022 and 2023. Trying to protect people, trying to shield people who travel to New York for care, as well as the providers who deliver that care here.

But we have thought less about our personal data. It is impossible to have an abortion or to support somebody to receive an abortion without leaving a digital trail. There will be search histories, email exchanges, possibly phone records, travel itineraries, Fitbit or Period Tracker app data, changes in purchasing history that [00:29:00] suggest a pregnancy, and I could just like keep listing for the rest of the podcast.

In fact, We know that electronic health data have already been used to prosecute people for supporting others to receive abortion care. And a lot of people think that their Fitbit and Period Tracker app data are covered by HIPAA, our federal health privacy law, because they pertain to health, right? Like, that’s intuitively logical.

But HIPAA is very precise about who it covers and what it covers. And those sort of, what we think of as consumer data. are not covered. Fortunately, New York has a bill, the New York Health Information Privacy Act, that would holistically protect New Yorkers electronic health data, as well as electronic data, health data generated here in New York.

And so this measure, and I am talking about New Yorkers because it’s true, this will protect folks who come here, but this is also good policy for all of us here in New York, because our health information is so personal. This [00:30:00] measure would give New Yorkers more control. Over our electronic health data and make it harder for law enforcement in a hostile state to use those data to prosecute New Yorkers or to prosecute those who travel here, whether that prosecution is about providing, receiving, or helping another to access health care, and frankly, whether that health care is abortion care, gender affirming care, or any other type of health care. The bill prohibits the sale of New Yorkers electronic health data and electronic health data generated in New York, including to out of state buyers.

And it requires affirmative consent for all processing of New Yorker’s electronic health data and electronic health data generated in New York, unless that processing is strictly necessary for a short list of enumerated purposes. And I think, and I should say, there’s all sorts of processing that like, may not be about criminalizing somebody, but might be creepy.

I mean, as long ago as 2020. [00:31:00] Target was figuring out whether people were pregnant based on their purchasing history. It was mostly that they were purchasing a lot of unscented lotion. This is true. Target found that advantageous because at the time that somebody goes through a major life transition, they often change their purchasing habits and Target was like, Oh, this is a great time to expand my consumer base.

Turns out it’s really creepy and they outed people as pregnant before they themselves knew. There’s like a moment where a really angry father was like, you have been sending my daughter diaper ads, and why do you think my 16 year old child is pregnant? That it turned out, of course, the 16 year old was pregnant.

That probably put that child in a very uncomfortable situation in her own home. So I want to just underscore that this is not just about the current moment, and these practices have consequences that flow beyond, has Texas banned abortion again this week? In addition, The Health Data Privacy Bill includes a default [00:32:00] expectation that electronic health data will be deleted after 60 days unless the individual whose information it is requests that the company keep it longer, and that’s important because even if law enforcement outside of New York can circumvent our shield laws.

And I say that because law enforcement outside of New York can go to Google or they can go to Facebook in their home state without ever involving a New York court and without ever involving New York law enforcement. That out of state law enforcement cannot get data that the company doesn’t have because they’ve deleted it.

This is a bill that has already passed the Senate this year. And so we need the assembly to do its part. And jump on board and pass it before the end of the legislative session.

Simon: Excellent. And as a unscented lotion purchaser myself, that is a very scary story that you’ve, that you’ve just described. Simon, they’re

Allie: going to think you’re pregnant.

Simon: I don’t want them knowing about my lotion purchases. Allie, there’s also a bill that I [00:33:00] know you’re working to pass that would prevent people’s medical records from being used against them. Can you explain why? How that bill works and why that’s important in the context of abortion care.

Allie: Sure. And let me start by way of background because I think the only thing that is more esoteric than health data when we’re talking about consumer products is electronic health records.

So by way of background, electronic health records. Improve the quality of health care by ensuring that every provider who sees a patient has access to their medical history. And the federal government has really been incentivizing states and medical providers, if anything short of requiring, to move over to electronic health records.

So you’re not seeing so many paper medical records in doctor’s offices anymore. But electronic health records are also blunt instruments. They either make a patient’s entire medical record [00:34:00] available, If the record is shared, if the patient agrees to sharing, Or they withhold the entire record. There’s no granularity.

There’s no ability to say, well, I want to share this appointment, but not that appointment, or I want to share this medication, but not that medication. It’s an on off switch. This can create vulnerabilities for patients, post obs who receive abortion care in New York and travel to a state that criminalizes abortion.

It may not even be that they move. If I’m visiting my grandmother in Texas and I end up in the ER, that ER doc is going to see. my entire health record. It also poses risks of discrimination for patients here in New York who see other providers in New York who might oppose abortion, right? Maybe your podiatrist is anti choice.

Oh, the podiatrist. But no, Allie, you make a great point, right? Like, anti choice judgment. Right, like, that, I mean, that exists. We have anti choice medical providers here in New York in all specialties. And we also know that most [00:35:00] people who have been criminalized for their pregnancy outcomes have come to law enforcement’s attention.

Because medical providers have turned them over, which is really sober, really sobering fact. So there’s a new bill that has been introduced in the New York State Legislature that would require electronic health record companies to create the ability to segment electronic health records at a patient’s direction and to suppress sensitive health information again at the patient’s direction.

Thank you This would enable patients to reap the benefits of electronic health records without risking that information about their abortion or frankly other sensitive health information being shared with the ER in Texas would I go visit my grandmother or the anti abortion podiatrist in Schenectady.

Legislation to this effect has already passed in Maryland and California, so it is not revolutionary and we should enact this legislation [00:36:00] here in New York this year. I want to also just say as like a zoom out moment, we are in the process of patching holes in a leaky ship. We are living in a world that is completely unprecedented or almost completely unprecedented when something that is healthcare in half the states is a very serious crime in nearly half the states.

And so some of these solutions are not perfect, right? Would we like to have perfect access to health information if we’re health care providers? Probably. But do we recognize that can cause a lot of trouble in our new world? I was going to say our brave new world, our really scary new world, where something that is health care is also a crime in other places.

Simon: And so people hearing this, people in our scary new world who want to make sure New York leads the country when it comes to abortion access, what can they do to join this effort? Chelsea, I’ll start with you.

Chelsea: I think, as Elliot was speaking, I think the [00:37:00] reality of criminalization is huge, but for me, what everybody can be doing is fighting the stigmatization, right, of abortion.

And we know that those things are connected, but we also know that even folks who consider themselves quote unquote pro choice, or, you know, whatever, right, still hold a lot of abortion stigma. And I think we need to continue to, as most of this podcast has talked about, the legal and the policy pieces.

But what’s really connected to that is the culture change as well. And I think a lot of normal people get in these moments of like, oh, my goodness, crisis, what can I possibly do? And there’s a lot that you can do. And of course, Some of that is pushing your electeds and voting for electeds who you feel represent you and your issues.

But the other piece too is being part of de stigmatizing, normalizing abortion, and also centering the stories and realities of people who [00:38:00] are struggling to access care and people who have access care in your lives. Right. So one of the ways that you can do that is by saying the word abortion, try as much as possible, right?

You don’t have to say you’re pro choice. You don’t have to talk about reproductive yada yada. You don’t got to say, quote unquote, women’s rights to choose, which is not only not like saying abortion, but it’s also erasing many people who have abortions that don’t identify as women. So really trying to.

Find it in your language and also normalizing it in your language. And then also talking about it more, talking about it with people that you might not normally talk about abortion with. That might be your grandmother in Texas. That might be your colleague. That might be your community, your neighbor.

Talking about the issue and continuing to normalize it is such a huge piece because this wasn’t just a failure of radical right extremists. This was a failure of people who thought they were on the right side. This, or left side in this case, right? So this is folks who were supposedly pro [00:39:00] choice, folks who were saying that they believed in this right, and yet were refusing to use the word abortion.

As we’ve continued to see some politicians do. We’ve seen politicians and folks trying to continue to stigmatize and isolate the issue while saying, Hey, yeah, but we believe you should have the choice, but I don’t really believe in it that much. We can’t accept that anymore. We have to normalize it in our everyday and we have to normalize it in the ways that our politicians and our electeds kind of talk about it as well.

And then like a concrete thing you can do is support your local abortion fund. So NIAF. For New Yorkers is your local fund. We are a statewide fund, so we support New Yorkers and everyone traveling to the entire state. So support your local fund that can look like following us on social media. We’ll make sure we drop the links and the show notes and all that.

And that looks like if you’re able to supporting as a donor or if you’re Volunteering, we, most of our work is done by volunteers, right? Regular community folks who [00:40:00] just care about their community members and people traveling to their community, accessing care. That’s huge. So very much tap into NIAF. We want you and we need you.

And what’s really exciting. We are in the middle of annual fundraising campaign called, Fundraising. It is a national campaign that abortion funds across the country participate in. So if you’re not from New York, but you just really love NYCLU and you really love Simon and this podcast, you can also support your local abortion fund in your own state as well, or in your own community.

So we’ll drop the link to that. But basically what this campaign does is it raises funds for abortion funds, but also raises awareness and rallies community members. So folks can sign up to be a part of their campaign, can set a goal for themselves and can get really creative, right? We’ve seen people sell.

Baked goods or a yoga teachers or other instructors do a class where they can, some of the proceeds or all the proceeds go back to NIAP, t shirt sales, all the very cool things. And [00:41:00] we really, this is like our most exciting moment because we get to see how big and beautiful our community really is. And yeah, we will also have an in person event that we hope folks will stop by.

This is the time to get involved with your local abortion fund and with NIAF. It is the most exciting time of the year, and we look forward to seeing you tap in, and hopefully meeting you in person as well, if you’re in the New York City area.

Allie: First of all, I would sign up for Chelsea’s Soapbox. All the time.

It is always an honor to share space and to listen to you. I think a few ideas to, to pile on and a few more suggestions. So I want folks to take away the idea that, or maybe the reality that Roe was never enough. Roe was important, right? Roe did legalize abortion. But Ro also gave us a world of the Hyde Amendment, gave us a world of access gaps.

And so part of the opportunity now, and it feels a little death grippy to talk about opportunities when you [00:42:00] also feel like you’re standing on the edge of a cliff, but part of the opportunity now is to imagine a more inclusive world and a world where. We’re building not just toward having a right back, but building toward having meaningful access for everybody who needs it.

So I want to leave that as a big idea. In the space, but in terms of some smaller ideas, some more concrete things that you can do tomorrow. Equal Rights Amendment is going to be on the November 2024 ballot. We need north of 4 million voters in New York to flip their ballots over and vote yes on that amendment.

So that is a thing to file away in your own brain for November. But also if you are interested in getting involved in the campaign, it is going to take a lot of people power. And a lot of volunteers and a lot of activists and a lot of people talking to their best friend’s neighbor’s third cousin once removed to get those 4 million people to the polls to turn [00:43:00] over their ballots and vote yes.

So please, if this spirit moves you on the ERA, join us. You can go to nyequalrights. org to get involved. Hopefully that will also be in the show notes on the ERA campaign. And then on the more. immediate, like what is cooking in our budget? What is our legislature going to do between now and the first week in June when they leave town to go campaign?

You can go to NYCLU. org and then there is a take action button and you can go through those actions and find opportunities to take action specifically on each of the bills that we’ve talked about today to contact your lawmaker through there. If you are not keen on the pre populated action alert, you can also go to or and find your representatives and find their contact information directly and reach out. It really is meaningful for every phone call that a lawmaker gets. They assume that there are [00:44:00] at least a hundred people who are sharing that information. In agreement, and haven’t taken the time to call, so your one voice calling in, taking your two minutes on your lunch break to make that phone call really does make a huge difference.

Ditto for emails. Get involved y’all, stakes are high.

Chelsea: Yeah, can I just like reiterate that? Roe was the floor. We are building something better and it’s going to take a lot of folks energy and love and rigor to build this new world. And there are going to be some incremental steps, including all the policy and legislation that Allie mentioned.

And that is a big piece of it. And. That is not the only piece and we need to continue to dream and do better for our people because Roe was the floor and we are not trying to leave folks out. We’re trying to get this to be access for everyone, full reproductive freedom for everyone in New York and across the country.

Simon: And with that, Chelsea, Allie, thank you so much [00:45:00] for coming on Rights This Way.

Allie: Thank you so much. Thanks for having us and featuring the issues.

Simon: Thank you for listening. You can find out more about everything we talked about today by visiting nyclu. org and you can follow us at NYCLU on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

If you have questions or comments about Rights This Way, you can email us at podcast at nyclu. org. Until next time, I’m Simon McCormack. Thank you for fighting for a fair New York.