CARLE PLACE, NY (OCTOBER 3, 2022) - As the nation reflects on the 100 days since the Supreme Court recklessly overturned Roe V. Wade, eliminating federal protections guaranteeing abortion access nationwide, New York State Senator Anna M. Kaplan (D-Port Washington) issued an update on the progress made to protect women's reproductive rights on Long Island, and the path forward that remains in order to fully secure reproductive rights in New York.
Senator Anna M. Kaplan said "In the months since we first learned that the Supreme Court was plotting to take away our freedom of choice, New Yorkers have mobilized to send a message that we refuse to go back, and we've taken action to enshrine our rights in State and local law. In that time, I've worked tirelessly to pass new laws protecting our rights, and I've worked to eliminate restrictions that were still on the books here in our community. The unfortunate reality though, despite the progress that we've made, is there is still more work to be done, and I'm going to keep fighting until every woman's right to choose is protected."
Following the early leak that the Court was planning to repeal the 50 year-old legal precedent, Senator Kaplan led a rally for women's choice attended by hundreds of Long Islanders who braved torrential downpours to make sure their voices were heard.
Their calls for action were heeded by State lawmakers, including Senator Kaplan, who got to work authoring and passing a nation-leading legislative package to immediately protect the rights of women and medical providers in anticipation of the Court's final decision that ultimately eliminated federal protections. Among the bills they passed is a new law written by Senator Kaplan that makes New York a safe haven for women living in anti-choice states who are seeking reproductive healthcare.
Following the Court's decision to overturn Roe, a decision Senator Kaplan called "extreme," "dangerous," and "wildly out of step with the nation," Governor Kathy Hochul returned the State Legislature to Albany for a special legislative session to advance the first passage of the "equality amendment" to codify the right to an abortion and the right to contraception in the State Constitution, an effort that was co-sponsored by Senator Kaplan. In order to amend the New York State Constitution, a resolution must be passed by two successive legislatures, and supported by a majority of voters in a public referendum. The action taken by the Legislature and Governor was the first passage, setting up the need for a second passage next year, with a possible referendum as early as November 2023.
In July, North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey shocked residents on the North Shore of Nassau County when she revealed the discovery of a so-called "trigger law" that existed on the books in the Town of North Hempstead, which codified restrictions on abortions in the Town code, and which could have been used by opponents of women's choice to place barriers between women and their doctors. Councilwoman Lurvey led a successful effort to repeal the dangerous anti-choice law from the Town code, a move that was hailed by Senator Kaplan, who noted that "we've all had to learn a tough lesson that we can't sit back and expect that things will be okay here just because we live in a place where our rights are protected. We've seen that there are people who will stop at nothing to assert their control over women's bodies, and the only people who can stop them are those of us who are willing to stand up and do the right thing."
Following the news out of North Hempstead that abortion restrictions continued to exist in town code and could potentially threaten the rights of women on Long Island, Senator Kaplan and Assemblywoman Gina L. Sillitti undertook a thorough examination of the municipal laws of over 110 communities on Long Island, including both counties and every town, village, and city, in an effort to uncover any additional abortion laws that might still exist in Long Island communities. Their research uncovered 5 municipalities that continued to have restrictions on the books, the Town of Hempstead, the Town of Oyster Bay, the Town of Huntington, the Village of Freeport, and the Village of Williston Park, and they called on leaders in those communities to begin the repeal process right away.
Shortly after Senator Kaplan and Assemblywoman Sillitti called for repeal in the 5 communities, the Town of Hempstead and the Town of Oyster Bay heeded their demands, and repealed their local abortion restrictions in a quiet fashion.
Looking ahead, Senator Kaplan is continuing to push for the remaining 3 Long Island communities to repeal the abortion restrictions still on their books, and she is currently finalizing additional legal protections to strengthen women's choice and reproductive rights in the State of New York. When she returns to Albany in January, she will lead the way to ensure a second resolution is passed to continue the process of amending the State Constitution to codify the right to an abortion and the right to contraception in the State Constitution.