After two hours of heated debate, the North Hempstead Town Board voted unanimously Thursday to repeal a 50-year-old section of the town code that limited where pregnancies could be terminated to hospitals, facilities administered by a hospital or facilities affiliated with a hospital.
The public hearing, which drew 25 comments, was a continuation of a two-hour hearing in which Town Board Democrats voted 4-2 along party lines to push the vote to Thursday night.
Republican Supervisor Jennifer DeSena did not attend the August meeting, saying she had a “long-standing prior family commitment”, leaving Deputy Supervisor Joe Scalero to lead the meeting, but without any voting power.
On Thursday, DeSena revised her explanation, saying she was in Delaware with her family on vacation.
State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-North Hills), who spoke in favor of repealing the law, criticized DeSena for her absence in August and the change in the reason she gave.
“Supervisor, I was disappointed that you weren’t able to be here last time because I know that so many of our residents are eager to hear whether or not you support a woman’s right to access an abortion in the Town of North Hempstead,” Kaplan said at the meeting.
Kaplan, who is running for re-election to the state Senate and previously served on the Town Board, later questioned DeSena’s claim that she missed the August meeting because she was on vacation.
“It’s worth noting that the Town of North Hempstead sets board meeting dates at the beginning of the year to avoid such personal scheduling conflicts, and Supervisor DeSena did not mention she had a conflict when the critically important item was added to the agenda for the August meeting,” Kaplan said.
Town Attorney Frank Chiara said the board’s vote was not necessary at the outset of the meeting in response to a request by DeSena to describe the local law, Chapter 41A, its history and how applicable it is today.
“There is no actual effectiveness, it is unenforceable,” Chiara said. “It is a law in the books that is contrary to state law.”
The local law was adopted on Aug. 10, 1971, one year after the state Senate legalized abortion up to the 24th week of pregnancy and two years before the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade, which permitted abortions during the first two trimesters of pregnancy in the United States.