NASSAU COUNTY, NY — Two Nassau County towns have removed abortion restrictions from their laws, following calls by state lawmakers to do so earlier this month.
Sen. Anna Kaplan and Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti, both Democrats, said they and their staff reviewed the laws of 110 Long Island municipalities and found that five still had abortion restrictions on the books. More than 1.25 million people live in the areas where those laws still exist.
The lawmakers called on those municipalities — Town of Hempstead, the Town of Oyster Bay, the Town of Huntington, the Village of Freeport and the Village of Williston Park — to remove the restrictions. This week, Kaplan and Sillitti announced that the towns of Oyster Bay and Hempstead had repealed the restrictions, which means that all three townships in Nassau County no longer have abortion restrictions in their laws.
"Two weeks ago, I called on local officials to repeal draconian abortion restrictions that were still on the books here on Long Island, and today I'm proud to announce that the Towns of Oyster Bay and Hempstead did exactly what I told them to do: they repealed their abortion restrictions!" Kaplan said. "While they may not have done so with any fanfare, this is a moment worth celebrating, and I thank them for this achievement. Now, it's time for officials in the remaining three Long Island communities to do their part and repeal their abortion restrictions, which we know were enacted with the sole purpose of getting between women and their right to choose."
The laws generally restrict access to abortions of any kind — including medication based, non-surgical abortions, like the Plan B pill — by requiring that all abortion services take place in a hospital, effectively outlawing clinics like Planned Parenthood, and adding an extra time and cost to keep women from accessing abortion services.
The laws in each municipality were passed and added to local code in the early 1970's during a wave of such measures being enacted across Long Island as a means of restricting access to abortions in local communities, Kaplan said, and preventing the establishment of clinics that provide abortion care. However, the laws are not presently enforceable due to New York laws that protect abortion rights statewide. However, Kaplan and Sillitti are worried that future changes could put those rights at risk.
The Town of Oyster Bay called Kaplan and Sillitti's action a political game earlier this month.
"This decades-old Town Code was outdated, unenforceable and had zero impact as state law and has long superseded the 1971 code," said Town of Oyster Bay Spokesperson Marta Kane. "To prevent further political games and false flag attempts to scare the public, the Town Board voted to remove this outdated section from the Town Code, even though it has had no impact on the public for over 50 years."
The inspection by Kaplan and Sillitti's offices was prompted by the discovery that the Town of North Hempstead still had abortion restrictions in its town code. Those laws were repealed in late August.
"I am glad that the Town of North Hempstead, the Town of Hempstead and the Town of Oyster Bay have joined our call to action and repealed the anti-abortion statutes still on their books, sending a message to women everywhere that your rights are too important to leave unprotected," said Sillitti.