Attorney General James Sends Clear Message: Access to Abortion is Legal and Protected in New York

AG James Sends Letter to Law Enforcement to Remind Them about New York’s
Abortion Laws and Protections for Residents, Visitors, and Providers 

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today reminded law enforcement throughout New York state: Abortion rights are protected in New York. In a letter sent to New York state law enforcement including district attorneys, county sheriffs, local police departments, and others, Attorney General James reminded agencies about New York’s robust abortion rights laws which include protections for residents, visitors, and providers. The letter also included answers to frequently asked questions to ensure all law enforcement personnel in New York state understand that abortion rights are protected and have guidance on how to enforce those laws.  

“As abortion rights are rolled back and banned in other states, it is important for everyone to know that New York is, and will continue to be, a safe haven for abortion access,” said Attorney General James. “Everyone must understand the facts surrounding New York’s abortion access and privacy protections, especially as other states are attempting to punish people who provide or obtain abortion care. I will always fiercely defend reproductive justice and freedom of choice in New York.” 

Following the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling that protected abortion rights nationwide, a patchwork of laws in different states, including some banning abortion completely, has led to confusion among patients, providers, and law enforcement. The letter from Attorney General James provides clear answers and information about abortion rights and protections in New York state, and offers help and guidance to state and local law enforcement officials. 

Attorney General James noted that the recently passed laws continue New York’s leadership in guaranteeing safety, security, and privacy for anyone seeking or providing lawful abortions. Attorney General James also informed her colleagues that the recently passed state laws ensure New York officials cannot help other states that attempt to penalize people for obtaining or providing lawful abortion care in New York. Additionally, she urged her colleagues in law enforcement to familiarize themselves with local reproductive health service providers, help address their safety needs, and offer any necessary support to ensure there is no unlawful interference with reproductive health services. Attorney General James also encouraged law enforcement personnel to promptly report incidents of interference by contacting the Office of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau at (212) 416-8250 and 

“The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) District II, representing ob-gyns and other medical professionals delivering obstetric and gynecologic care in New York, applauds Attorney General James for her guidance letter to law enforcement that outlines protections for abortion care delivered in our state,” said Christine Herde, MD, FACOG, Chair, ACOG District II.  “The attacks across the country necessitate bold and protective action in safe harbor states like New York for both patients and clinicians. By emphasizing New York will not help other states that seek to penalize people for obtaining or providing lawful abortion care in our state, this letter sends a strong message that New York recognizes abortion as essential health care and values the medical professionals who provide it.”    

“Complete chaos has ensued since the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, resulting in a public health crisis that is only getting worse,” said Nancy Northup, President and CEO, Center for Reproductive Rights. “Abortion is already illegal in 12 states and that number will continue to grow as more states implement bans. Amid this uncertainty, we applaud the leadership of Attorney General James as a fierce advocate for the right to make one’s own health care decisions, not only for New Yorkers, but for people from every state. Her statements today — along with the state’s recent enactment of interstate shield laws protecting abortion providers, patients, and helpers — demonstrate with unequivocal clarity that people who travel to New York to exercise their right to abortion can do so without fear.”   

“Everyone deserves access to abortion, regardless of where you live,” said April Lockley, DO, Medical Director, Miscarriage and Abortion Hotline. “We applaud the continued protection of abortion care in the state of New York. The M+A Hotline is staffed by volunteer clinicians who are here to support anyone in the U.S. who wants to ask a medical professional about their abortion care.”  

“We are grateful to New York Attorney General James for reaffirming the state’s commitment to protecting access to abortion and ensuring that the state’s law enforcement bodies are reminded of New York laws and provided guidance to be able to carry them out effectively,” said Melissa Fowler, Chief Program Officer, National Abortion Federation (NAF). “Since the fall of Roe, clinics in New York — and other haven states — have seen an increase in patients from states with harmful abortion bans. Simultaneously, we have seen a steady rise in violence and harassment against providers from anti-abortion extremists who continue to be emboldened by the Supreme Court’s decision. It is critical at this moment for states like New York to remind their law enforcement officials that abortion is both legal and protected and that they must proactively uphold the law so that patients can seek care without fear of intimidation and abortion providers can operate without threats and violence.”

“We stand with the Attorney General in affirming that law enforcement has absolutely no place in reproductive healthcare, and we're proud to have worked with her team to ensure reproductive justice for New Yorkers and out-of-state patients alike,” said Dana Sussman, Acting Executive Director, National Advocates for Pregnant Women. “Since 1973, we've documented more than 1,700 cases of pregnancy-related criminalization across the U.S. — even in New York. With abortion under attack, we must take every step possible to safeguard access and reproductive justice for all.”  

“We applaud Attorney General James for outlining such critical information about abortion access in New York in clear terms,” said Andrea Miller, President, National Institute for Reproductive Health and NIRH Action Fund. “It is imperative that law enforcement understand the legal parameters for abortion providers and people seeking care. As the threats of criminalization and surveillance continue to rise in states that are hostile to abortion, we must be able to count on those charged with maintaining public safety here in New York to do just that. With the anti-abortion movement’s relentless misinformation campaigns, it’s paramount that police do not harm people and communities — including disproportionately oppressed communities — for simply trying to access the health care they need.”  

“In this moment, the country needs New York’s leadership. Half the states are moving with lightning speed to ban virtually all abortions, and access to care in many parts of the country is already a fiction,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director, New York Civil Liberties Union. “We applaud Attorney General James for doing everything she can to ensure that New York law enforcement know that abortion is a fundamental right, and that it is their duty to respect that right. Five decades ago, and three years before Roe, New York opened its doors to women from across the U.S. who needed abortion care, and we are called to do so once again. Women, young people, transgender, and gender non-conforming people are counting on us.”  

“Now more than ever, it is critical that patients seeking abortion care, abortion providers, and law enforcement officials have a clear understanding of the privacy and safety protections New York state laws provide,” said Georgana Hanson, Interim President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts. “We are grateful for the Attorney General’s unwavering leadership in addressing this issue, and know this communication and partnership will ensure that laws designed to protect bodily autonomy and essential health care are upheld in New York, while making clear that interference with reproductive health services will not be tolerated. Patient privacy and safety is paramount, and addressing the safety needs of providers and clinics is critical to keeping access to abortion care a reality.”   

“We applaud this move by the state of New York to ensure its abortion providers and their patients feel safe giving and receiving care. Providers should be able to offer legal health care without fear that they will be investigated or prosecuted,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “New York continues to be a critical access point for patients who are seeking safe abortion care. We will continue to support the compassionate and brave providers that stand up for patients’ freedom to make decisions and receive care that is best for their bodies, their families, and their futures.”  

“We applaud Attorney General James for her efforts today, and every day, to protect access to abortion for those seeking care in New York,” said Vincent Russell, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic. “We know this is a confusing time and having this clarification for law enforcement, New York courts, and county clerks will help clarify current New York laws related to abortion. At Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic we believe every person has the right to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health care and politicians from other states cannot impose their laws in New York.”   

“As sexual and reproductive health is increasingly threatened nationwide, we are committed to ensuring that our client’s privacy is protected and New York remains a true safe haven for abortion services,” said Lisa David, President and CEO, Public Health Solutions. “We fully support Attorney General James’ effort to provide confidential health services to everyone seeking care in our state.”  

Attorney General James has been a prolific fighter for abortion rights and abortion access. In August, Attorney General James took action to protect New Yorkers’ access to reproductive health care prescriptions and products at CVS and Walgreens pharmacies. Also in August, Attorney General James commended Google for taking steps to improve search results for individuals seeking abortion care following a letter the she sent in June expressing concerns about search results that directed individuals seeking abortions to dangerous and misleading anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centers.” Also in June, Attorney General James launched a legal hotline to help provide legal guidance to patients, healthcare providers, and supporters seeking information about their legal rights. In May, Attorney General James supported state legislation to establish a state program to provide financial resources to abortion providers in New York and called for a New York state Constitutional Amendment ensuring the right to an abortion

Attorney General James has helped lead a coalition of states’ attorneys general in combating efforts to restrict abortion access. This past August, Attorney General James filed two amicus briefs in U.S. District Courts in Idaho and Texas arguing that near total bans on abortion conflict with the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. In December 2021, she filed an amicus brief supporting a challenge to Arizona’s “reason ban” that prohibits abortion when it is sought because of the presence of a fetal abnormality. In November 2021, she filed an amicus brief supporting a constitutional challenge to several Indiana laws that impose burdensome restrictions on abortion providers that are not imposed on other health care providers. In October 2021, she filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to stop Texas’ unconstitutional six-week abortion ban, Senate Bill 8 (SB 8), by vacating a Fifth Circuit order that let the abortion ban continue to take effect. In September 2021, she filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court supporting a challenge to a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks