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Hochul approves legal protections for abortion pill providers

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(The Center Square) — New York physicians who prescribe abortion pills to patients in other states where the drugs are banned would be shielded from legal scrutiny under a bill signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The bill, which the New York Legislature approved in the final days of its session, expands the use of telehealth for those seeking abortions and shields doctors from out-of-state lawsuits by prohibiting New York state or local government employees from cooperating with individuals or out-of-state agencies on issues of ‘legally protected health activity.”

That would effectively block any requests for arrest or extradition for New York-based medical professionals from authorities in other states.

Hochul said the new “Shield Act” law will “help women access medication abortion and reproductive care by ensuring our health care providers can deliver telehealth services to out-of-state patients without fear of legal or professional repercussions.”

“We are witnessing a shameful regression of women’s rights in this country as abortion access is restricted in states across the nation,” the Democrat said in a statement. “In New York, we remain committed to ensuring abortion remains safe, accessible, and legal.”

Hochul signed the bill into law coinciding with the first anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling providing federal protections for abortions. She pointed out that more than half of the abortions in the U.S. involve the use of medication.

“With this bill, New York is continuing to fight back against restrictive abortion laws and help more people access the care they need,” she added.

To be sure, New York already has legal protections for medical professionals who perform abortions for patients who travel from other states with bans or restrictions.

At least 14 states have enacted bans on abortions since the high court’s ruling last year, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Other states have set tough restrictions on the procedure. New York joins several states that authorize telehealth services for abortion care.

Anti-abortion groups have criticized the state’s push to provide legal protections to physicians who prescribe abortion-inducing medication to out-of-state women.

The New York State Catholic Conference blasted the legislation as “political pandering,” saying it shields doctors from prosecution “in order to appear progressive on the issue of abortion” and positions New York as “the abortion capital of the United States.”

“New York Should respect the laws of other states, just as other states should respect New York’s,” Kristen Curran, the conference’s director of government relations, said in a statement. “Despite allowing abortion until the moment of birth, the state has spent hundreds of millions of dollars and passed dubious legislation in an effort to present abortion as the best and only choice for mothers in crisis.”

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