Attorney General James Takes Action to Expand Abortion Access
As Supreme Court Ruling on Abortion Looms, Legislation Introduced by State Senator Cleare and Assemblymember González-Rojas Will Provide Abortion Access for Low-Income New Yorkers
Program Will Also Provide Funding to Support Increased Demand for Abortion Services
From Individuals Traveling to New York from Other States That Ban Abortion
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James, State Senator Cordell Cleare, and Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas today announced new legislation to establish a state program that would provide financial resources to abortion providers in New York. The Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program would provide funding for abortion providers and non-profit organizations to help increase access to care, funding for uncompensated and uninsured abortion care, and providing resources to support the needs of individuals accessing abortion care. If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade in the coming weeks, the fundamental federal right to abortion will be eliminated, curtailing the ability of people across the United States to access safe and legal abortions. The Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program would support access to abortion for low-income New Yorkers and would also provide financial support for the influx of people coming to New York from other states that ban abortion.
As states have passed laws restricting access to abortion, the number of people traveling to New York for care has already grown. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2019, nine percent or 7,000 of the abortion procedures performed in New York were for people from out of state. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, that number is likely to increase to more than 32,000 procedures a year from individuals traveling from only Ohio and Pennsylvania to New York, according to the Guttmacher Institute. There are currently 22 states that have laws or constitutional amendments that already exist that would allow them to ban abortion if Roe is overturned or weakened. There are an additional four states that are likely to ban abortion in the absence of federal protections. These 26 states are home to more than 40 million women of reproductive age.
“We know what happens when women are unable to control their own bodies and make their own choices and we will not go back to those dark times,” said Attorney General James. “New York must lead the fight to keep abortion safe and accessible for all who seek it and this legislation spearheaded by State Senator Cleare and Assemblymember González-Rojas will ensure that low-income New Yorkers and people from states that ban abortion have access to the care they need and deserve. No matter what happens in the weeks to come, New York will always fight to protect our right to make decisions about our own bodies and expand access to this critical and lifesaving care.”
The legislation announced today, and originally called for by Attorney General James last year, seeks a dedicated Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program within the New York State Department of Health (DOH) that would provide funding to abortion providers and non-profit organizations to grow the capacity of providers and meet present and future care needs. The program would provide funding for uncompensated abortion care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay for care or their insurance status. Finally, the program seeks to address the abortion care needs of individuals from outside of New York by awarding grant funds to non-profit organizations that provide support to individuals that travel to New York. To protect the privacy of the individuals seeking care, the legislation prohibits the state from tracking the personal information of patients through the providers that receive funds from the program.
“Health care is a fundamental human right and abortion is an essential aspect of women’s health care,” said State Senator Cordell Cleare. “I am proud to sponsor new legislation — The Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program — that will ensure that in New York we proactively protect, support, and fund all aspects of women’s health care including comprehensive abortion services. We will not be subject to the arbitrary whims of a politicized Supreme Court nor can we fund health care services via private fundraising — our women deserve better, and justice and equity demand it!”
“One of our greatest fears in generations is coming true: The Supreme Court will overrule Roe v. Wade,” said Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas. “Millions who live in states hostile to abortion access will look to other states for that care. New York must be a leader at this moment and prepare for the impending need. That is why I’m proud to have introduced legislation to create the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Fund, which will help address this need by providing funding to providers and addressing the practical needs of patients. I am honored to stand with our Attorney General Letitia James in calling on all of my elected colleagues to support it, for it to pass, and be signed into law. Most importantly, I’m asking that we invest the necessary resources to support our sisters and siblings across this nation. Our communities need real action by our state and this fund will ensure that New York is a safe access state when the Supreme Court has failed us.”
“I want to thank Attorney General James, Senator Cleare, and Assemblymember Gonzalez-Rojas for continuing New York state's role as a leader in ensuring access to abortion and reproductive health care,” said State Senator Liz Krueger. “At this critical moment New York must ensure access both to New Yorkers and refugees from other states who are being denied their basic rights.”
“When it comes to reproductive rights, the Supreme Court has indicated that it's going to fail American women,” said Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn. “But, where the Supreme Court fails, New York will not. This legislation will say we respect you, no matter who you are, no matter what your skin color, or what faith you do or do not subscribe to. This legislation will say, ‘We believe you have inalienable rights, rights that cannot be superseded by your government.’ Bodily autonomy is a right for all Americans. The reasons for her decision are ultimately hers alone. To deny this choice is to deny one's freedom and equality.”
“Access to quality health care is a basic human right,” said Assemblymember Stefani L. Zinerman. “The Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program is a step toward establishing a system that not only supports a woman’s right to choose, but also recognizes that universal health care is fundamental to the success of our democracy. Currently, there is a challenge to our country’s constitution as the highest court in the land considers ignoring the voices, blood, sweat, and tears of millions of Americans who have fought for equity in health care since the last century. There is no time like the present to charge forward with legislation that protects the rights of women and respects the needs of our humanity. Equal access to quality reproductive health care must be our highest priority.”
“Abortion is health care, and as a maternal health nurse, I’ve seen the injustice that results when people don’t have access to reproductive health care,” said Assemblymember Phara Souffrant Forrest. “At this moment, we must take action to support those who are most at risk because of the Supreme Court’s pending decision on Roe v. Wade. I’m proud to do sponsor the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program so that New York state can be a beacon of reproductive justice.”
“As people across the country face unprecedented attempts to restrict their access to critical abortion services, New York must guarantee that we not only strengthen abortion protections for our own residents, but also expand our capacity to deal with the major influx of out-of-state patients expected if Roe v. Wade is overturned,” said Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou. “New York is and must remain a safe haven for abortion rights in America, and I applaud Attorney General James for taking bold action to reaffirm that truth.”
“As we continue to fight for equal rights for all, Assembly bill A10148 will be sure to provide reproductive freedom and equity ensuring access to abortion care,” said Assemblymember Yudelka Tapia. “As a proud co-sponsor of this bill, I will stand with my colleagues in government and all agencies in this fight, that is going on around the country. I thank Attorney General James for bringing this fight to the forefront, and look forward in fighting for women’s rights and their right to choose.”
“With Roe v. Wade under attack and facing potential reversal by the Supreme Court, we must continue to take action that ensures access to safe abortion and supports organizations that help serve people’s reproductive health care needs,” said New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams. “Establishing this new fund will support individuals’ increased access to abortion care in key circumstances where insurance coverage cannot be used by a provider or there is an inability for the patient to pay. I strongly support the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program, and thank Attorney General Letitia James, Senator Cordell Cleare, and Assemblymember Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas for their leadership.”
“Health care is a human right and reproductive freedom is the cornerstone of women's health care,” said New York City Council Member Lynn Schulman. “With the real prospect of Roe v. Wade being reversed by the Supreme Court, the proposed legislation to create the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program is essential for women in New York to remain in charge of our bodies.”
“Generations of women have fought for the right to have autonomy over their bodies and health care decisions, including the right to contraception and abortion. I commend Attorney General James, State Senator Cleare, and Assemblymember González-Rojas for introducing legislation to protect safe abortion access for low-income New Yorkers and individuals in states with restrictive abortion laws,” said New York City Council Member Gale Brewer. “Having fought my entire life for women’s rights, I am enraged at the prospect that millions of women will suffer, and that many will die as the result of Justice Alito’s opinion. We are proud of New York state for codifying Roe into law but now we call on Congress to do the same.”
“Before Roe v. Wade, New York City was a safe haven for all who sought abortion care, and we must honor and uphold that legacy,” said New York City Council Member Carlina Rivera. “Equitable access to abortion care is vital to social and economic equality, and for the right to determine our own lives and futures. The Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program will help make New York a safe place for all to have access to abortion care services and tear down the barriers to reproductive freedom in this country.”
“The unprecedented reports are devastating that the Supreme Court of the United States of America could vote to overturn Roe v. Wade,” said New York City Council Member Julie Menin. “Women’s reproductive rights are health care rights, and today more than ever they are being torn from us. The New York state legislature must stand with Attorney General James, State Senator Cleare, and Assemblymember González-Rojas by passing into law and establishing the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program.”
“For most of us, we have never had the luxury of relying on the false hope that a legal system predicated on racism and misogyny will help us,” said New York City Council Member Crystal Hudson. “As women elected by the people — Black, Latinx, Asian, women of color, disabled women, and queer women — we alone cannot save us. But we can surely fight like hell to protect our sisters, trans and gender, non-conforming and non-binary siblings, to safeguard and expand access to critical abortion care for all. By establishing a consistent stream of funding for reproductive health and abortion care providers in New York through the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Fund, we’re making access to safe, trusted abortion care the norm, not the exception. It is imperative that we pass this legislation, and show that New York is truly a beacon of hope not just for the millions of people across this state, but also for those across the country. Today, I am proud to stand with my colleagues across the city and state to demand we prioritize abortion access as part of the health, safety, and wellbeing of millions of people every day.”
“New York is the closest provider for the nearly 280,000 people who are going to be looking for life-saving health care,” said New York City Council Member Amanda Farias. “If the constitution won’t protect us then we will make sure New York state will. We are ready to step up not only for New Yorkers, but for all women and birthing people who deserve the freedom to have autonomy over their own bodies. The Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program will provide grant funds to support uncompensated care to ensure the affordability for anyone who seeks care in New York, regardless of their ability to pay. Grants will also be awarded to abortion providers and non-profit entities to ensure abortion services for individuals regardless of insurance or citizenship status. This initiative will not only save thousands of lives, but it will show this country that New York prioritizes women. Thank you, Attorney General James and all the New York state legislators, who are standing up for the 40 million people in this country who will lose access to vital reproductive care.”
“As we brace for the Supreme Court to unravel the right to abortion for millions, we must act,” said Georgana Hanson, interim president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts. “New York has a proud legacy of protecting and expanding access to abortion. In this perilous moment in the fight for reproductive freedom we must be bold and unwavering in our commitment to the right of every individual to control their own bodies, lives, and futures. For that right to be a reality, we must invest in access. The Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program is a critical step towards improving provider capacity to meet the need for care present in our communities today, and the need that will grow when millions are stripped of their right to abortion care. It will support patients navigating financial and logistical barriers to care, because your ability to access abortion should not be determined by who you are, where you live, or how much money you make. We are thrilled to see this legislation introduced and urge its passage, because investing in the providers and organizations that day in and day out make the right to abortion care a reality for all who need it has never been more critical.”
“The Supreme Court’s willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade is a call to action — and New York must answer that call,” said Andrea Miller, president, National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH). “The Reproductive Freedom and Equity Fund would be a critically needed, proactive step to create real access to abortion care, at a time when we need it the most. With half the states in the country poised to ban abortion, New York providers will face tremendous obstacles in providing the care that people need — both New Yorkers and all those who will travel to our state for care. With this fund, New York will ensure that medical and other costs are not a barrier to accessing care and that our providers have the capacity, resources, and infrastructure to treat everyone in need of care. I urge New York legislators to pass this bill immediately, and I hope other states across the nation take notice and follow suit.”
“The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) District II is proud to stand with our elected officials to uplift proactive policies to ensure abortion access in the future,” said Dr. Jessica Atrio, legislative chair, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists District II. “Abortion is essential health care that improves the lives, health, and well-being of the patients we serve. We strongly support the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program legislation which anticipates the many challenges that those seeking abortion services will face and will help providers continue to meet their needs and deliver patient-centered care here in New York.”
“We commend New York Attorney General Letitia James, Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas, and Senator Cordell Cleare’s leadership to stand united with young people, immigrants, people with disabilities, people of color, and people living below the poverty line who are disproportionately affected by the looming misogynistic and devastating Supreme Court decision to decimate abortion rights by overturning Roe v. Wade,” said Joanne N. Smith, founder and president, Girls for Gender Equity. “Not only does the ‘Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program Act’ help to remove barriers to abortion access and reproductive care, it reinforces the urgency to invest in and protect birthing people’s rights to bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom. We demand that New York state increase access to care today.”
“The potential rollback of Roe v Wade is truly devastating and holds dire consequences for the future of our bodily autonomy in this country, especially low-income persons, communities of color, indigenous communities, and immigrant communities,” said Nimmi Penmatsa, member, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum New York City. “The legislation set forth by State Senator Cleare and Assemblymember Gonzalez-Rojas to establish a Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program is vital in taking a step towards reducing barriers of access for persons in these communities who face a huge information divide when it comes to accessing services like abortion care. They are often faced with language barriers, cultural stigmas, and low rates of insurance coverage. As a South Asian woman, I can tell you from personal experience how much young adults in my community struggle to get the proper information and access they need because of the cultural stigma around abortions. We have no one to turn to when faced with needing abortion care because we risk being ostracized by the community. Organizations that work to provide information, education, resources, and abortion care, particularly in-language, are so important so that the most vulnerable people in our community have somewhere to go that is safe. Ultimately, health care and more importantly reproductive health care is a right; and a right is only a right if every citizen is able to access it. We must fight to ensure that we expand access to abortion without any legal, financial, or language barriers.”
“In this moment, New York must fund abortion care without apology and without exception. Half the states lie in wait to ban abortion entirely if the Supreme Court eviscerates Roe, and access to care in many parts of the country is already a fiction,” said Katharine Bodde, assistant policy director, New York Civil Liberties Union. “Four decades ago, and three years before the Court decided Roe, New York first opened its doors to people from across the U.S. who needed abortion care. To truly lead the way today, there is even more New York must do. Albany lawmakers must break down financial barriers to care by passing the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Act, critical legislation that would help abortion providers to increase access to care, fund uncompensated care, and ensure money is not an obstacle for individuals seeking abortion care.”
“There has never been a more important moment for New York to be a leader in strengthening access to abortion,” said New York Abortion Access Fund Board of Directors. “For over twenty years, the New York Abortion Access Fund has supported anyone living in or traveling to New York who needs an abortion and can't afford it. As abortion funders, we know that the people most impacted by cruel decisions like the Supreme Court’s draft ruling are people already facing barriers to abortion access. We believe no one should be denied access to an abortion because of where they live or how much money they make and strongly support the establishment of the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program.”
Today’s action is just the latest in a long list of measures Attorney General James has taken to protect patients’ reproductive freedom since taking office. In November 2021, Attorney General James, as part of a coalition of attorneys general, filed an amicus brief in the case Whole Woman’s Health Alliance v. Rokita in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, 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, Attorney General James, as part of a coalition of attorneys general, filed multiple amicus briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court, urging the high court to stop Texas’ unconstitutional six-week abortion ban — Senate Bill 8 (SB 8). First, in mid-October, Attorney General James and the coalition filed an amicus brief seeking to vacate an order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that let the abortion ban continue to take effect after a lower court initially blocked the law. This brief followed an earlier amicus brief Attorney General James and the coalition filed, in September 2021, in support of the U.S. Department of Justice’s initial challenge to Texas’ unconstitutional ban on abortions. Additionally, in late October 2021, Attorney General James and the coalition filed two more amicus briefs to the Supreme Court in United States of America v. State of Texas et al. and Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, calling on the court to refuse to allow Texas to evade judicial review of its blatantly unconstitutional ban by allowing challenges — brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and Texas abortion providers — to go forward.
In September 2021, Attorney General James helped score a victory when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed a preliminary injunction in the case Memphis Center for Reproductive Health v. Slatery, enjoining a Tennessee law that, among other things, banned abortions after as early as six weeks. In December 2020, Attorney General James and a coalition of attorneys general filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs’ challenge to that law.
Also, in September 2021, Attorney General James and a coalition of attorneys general filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in the case Planned Parenthood South Atlantic v. Wilson, where they urged the court to uphold a lower court’s ruling blocking South Carolina’s “fetal heartbeat” law that bans abortions once fetal cardiac activity is detected and jeopardizes access to health care as a whole.
In June 2021, Attorney General James led a coalition of attorneys general in submitting testimony to the congressional record supporting passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act. The act would protect a woman’s constitutional right to access an abortion by prohibiting unnecessary restrictions — passed at the state level — that undermine the availability and safety of health care services.
In April 2021, Attorney General James secured an agreement that ended the harassing and obstructive behavior of two anti-choice protesters at a Planned Parenthood location in New York City. On numerous occasions, the two defendants threatened patients, escorts, and health center staff entering the facility. The agreement came as a result of a February 2021 lawsuit Attorney General James filed against the two anti-choice protestors for repeated violations of federal, state, and local clinic access laws.
Also, in April 2021, Attorney General James and a coalition of attorneys general filed an amicus brief supporting a group of Tennessee abortion providers in Bristol Regional Women’s Center v. Slatery, where the providers were challenging a Tennessee law requiring women seeking abortions to attend two in-person appointments with physicians no fewer than 48 hours apart before undergoing the procedure.
In February 2021, Attorney General James led a coalition of attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists et al. v. FDA et al., where she encouraged an appeals court to uphold a lower court’s preliminary injunction that provided patients with safe access to medication abortions via telehealth and to extend that injunction to cover miscarriage treatment, all in an effort to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19. The preliminary injunction, previously issued, partly paused a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirement that forces women to appear in person in a clinical setting to receive a drug known as mifepristone for an early abortion and miscarriage treatment, making the drug readily accessible via telehealth and mail delivery for abortion patients, so as to not potentially expose those patients to COVID-19 by requiring unnecessary travel. The amicus brief followed up on three previous amicus briefs filed in this case by a coalition of states led by Attorney General James — in the U.S. District Court for the District for Maryland in June 2020, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in August 2020, and in the U.S. Supreme Court in September 2020 — asking those courts to issue or leave in effect the preliminary injunction suspending the FDA’s in-person requirements for mifepristone. The four amicus briefs also followed up on a letter Attorney General James sent, in March 2020, to both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the FDA, requesting that the Trump Administration waive or utilize its discretion not to enforce a specific designation that dictated and subsequently impeded patients’ access to reproductive care, including medication abortions. Attorney General James called on the Trump Administration to ensure that patients across the country could more easily access this critical health care service while the pandemic left many unable to seek in-person care.
In January 2021, Attorney General James led a multistate amicus brief for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, sitting en banc in the case Whole Woman’s Health v. Paxton. The brief supports a lawsuit challenging a Texas law that would ban physicians from providing second-trimester abortion services, using the most common and safest procedure available for women after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Also, in January 2021, Attorney General James helped secure a victory in Little Rock Family Planning Services v. Rutledge from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, after the court upheld a preliminary injunction blocking burdensome restrictions on abortions put in place by the passage of Arkansas laws. In January 2020, Attorney General James filed a multistate amicus brief in support of the last surgical abortion clinic in Arkansas as it sought to overturn the onerous restrictions on reproductive care.
In July 2020, Attorney General James scored a major nationwide win for reproductive freedom after a federal court threw out a Trump Administration rule that would have made it more difficult for patients in New York and across the nation to access abortion services under the Affordable Care Act. In January 2020, Attorney General James co-led a coalition of attorneys general in filing a lawsuit against the Trump Administration’s HHS for putting forward the rule, arguing that it jeopardized the health coverage of all consumers confused by its billing practice. Attorney General James followed up on the lawsuit by filing a motion for summary judgment, in March 2020, that led to this win. In addition to litigating this matter, Attorney General James also opposed this rule by sending a letter to HHS, in April 2020, asking that the rule be withdrawn or significantly delayed, as the nation dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, and by sending another letter to HHS, in July 2020, after an interim rule did not delay the rule long enough. Following its district court loss, the Trump Administration appealed the decision. In July 2021, Attorney General James sent a letter to the Biden-Harris Administration’s HHS, voicing her support for a new, proposed rule that would protect abortion coverage for women nationwide and cancel out the 2019 Trump era rule.
In June 2020, Attorney General James helped score another major victory at the U.S. Supreme Court — in the case June Medical Services v. Gee — by helping to overturn a Louisiana law that would have required abortion providers to maintain admitting privileges at a local hospital. In December 2019, Attorney General James led a multistate amicus brief in support of a challenge by the petitioners in the case, in an effort to protect the ability of patients across the nation to maintain access to safe, legal abortions, as is their constitutional right.
In April 2020, Attorney General James led a coalition of attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit — supporting the plaintiffs in Adams & Boyle, P.C., v. Slatery — as they fought to ensure patients across the state of Tennessee could continue to access an abortion after executive orders in the state banned procedural abortions, using COVID-19 as an excuse.
Also, in April 2020, Attorney General James led a coalition of attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit — supporting the plaintiffs in Robinson v. Marshall — as they fought to preserve access to reproductive health care after an executive order in Alabama banned nearly all abortions in the state, using the coronavirus as an excuse for the ban.
Earlier, in April 2020, Attorney General James led a coalition of attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit — supporting the plaintiffs in Little Rock Family Planning Services v. Rutledge — as they fought to protect access to procedural abortions in the state of Arkansas, after the state Department of Health used an emergency health order to ban all procedural abortions in Arkansas, using COVID-19 as the reasoning for the ban.
Additionally, in April 2020, Attorney General James demanded that three health insurance companies — Aetna, MetroPlus Health, and Oscar Health — immediately provide coverage for 12-month supplies of contraceptives after the Office of the Attorney General found that these companies were refusing to comply with a New York state law requiring all health insurance companies to provide this 12-month supply — especially troublesome in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, as many New Yorkers lost their jobs and health insurance coverage, and tried to limit unnecessary trips to pharmacies. Attorney General James also sent letters to other insurers in New York, reminding them about their obligation to provide 12 months of contraceptive coverage to women under New York’s Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act.
Even earlier, in April 2020, Attorney General James led a multistate coalition in filing an amicus brief — in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, supporting the plaintiffs in Southwind Women’s Center LLC v. Stitt — as they fought to preserve access to reproductive health care for patients across the state of Oklahoma and worked to stop the state from banning almost all abortions in Oklahoma when it used the COVID-19 public health crisis as an excuse.
Prior to that, in April 2020, Attorney General James and a coalition of attorneys general filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court — in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania — supporting a lawsuit defending the contraceptive coverage and counseling requirement previously mandated by rules under the Affordable Care Act that were limited by broad religious and conscience exemptions created by the Trump Administration. The old contraceptive rules benefited more than 62 million women across the country.
At the beginning of April 2020, Attorney General James led a multistate coalition of attorneys general from around the nation in filing an amicus brief supporting the plaintiffs in Planned Parenthood v. Abbott, after the state of Texas issued a directive banning nearly all abortion services in the state, using COVID-19 as an excuse.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, in March 2020, Attorney General James called on the federal government and states across the country to ensure that access to safe, legal abortions would not be jeopardized or curtailed as a result of the spread of COVID-19.
In January 2020, Attorney General James and a coalition of attorneys general filed an amicus brief in the case Reproductive Health Services v. Parson, challenging the constitutionality of a recently-enacted abortion ban and other bans in the state of Missouri that, among other things, banned abortions after as early as eight weeks into pregnancy.
Earlier, in January 2020, Attorney General James successfully argued that patients in Rochester seeking to have an abortion should be able to do so without being harassed, threatened, or blocked before entering a clinic when a district court judge dismissed a lawsuit by anti-abortion activists seeking to bypass a 15-foot “buffer zone” outside a local Planned Parenthood facility. In June 2020, Attorney General James submitted a brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit defending that victory.
In December 2019, Attorney General James filed an amicus brief defending the right to maintain full and equal access to birth control guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act for tens of thousands of patients nationwide, in the case Richard W. DeOtte et al. v Alex M. Azar in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
In November 2019, Attorney General James secured another major victory for reproductive freedom after a federal court invalidated a Trump Administration rule that would have allowed businesses and individuals to refuse to provide necessary health care on the basis of businesses' or employees’ “religious beliefs or moral convictions.” The victory came after, in May 2019, Attorney General James led a coalition of 23 states, cities, and municipalities in filing a lawsuit against the Trump Administration’s HHS for putting forward the rule, arguing that it undermined the delivery of health care by giving health care institutions and individuals — including employers — the right to refuse care based on the providers’ own personal views and not the choices of a patient.
In October 2019, Attorney General James filed a multistate amicus brief in support of a lawsuit filed by the Jackson Women’s Health Organization against the state of Mississippi, challenging a law that would prohibit abortions after as early as six weeks of pregnancy.
In September 2019, Attorney General James led a multistate amicus brief in support of a lawsuit filed by Kentucky clinics and physicians, challenging a Kentucky law that would ban physicians from providing second-trimester abortion services, using the most common and safest procedure available for women after 15 weeks of pregnancy. In June 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court's permanent injunction against the law.
In August 2019, Attorney General James filed a multistate amicus brief in support of a lawsuit filed by the Whole Woman’s Health Alliance against the state of Indiana after the state denied the clinic’s application for a license to open an abortion clinic that would provide medication abortions in South Bend.
Finally, in March 2019, Attorney General James co-led a coalition of 21 attorneys general in challenging the Trump Administration’s Title X family planning rule, which restricts health care providers that receive certain federal funds from counseling or making referrals for abortion. After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the rule, Attorney General James co-led the coalition, in October 2020, in filing a petition that asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. Separately, in May 2020, Attorney General James and another coalition of attorneys general filed an amicus brief in a different lawsuit brought by the city of Baltimore against the Trump Administration’s Title X rule. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit struck down the rule — enjoining it in Maryland while it remained in place across the rest of the nation — after which the Trump Administration filed its own petition asking the Supreme Court to hear the case. In March 2021, the coalitions in both cases joined with the Biden-Harris Administration to ask the Supreme Court to dismiss both cases, while the Biden-Harris Administration acted to rescind and replace the rule. In May 2021, the Supreme Court entered the order to dismiss both cases, and denied efforts by additional parties to step in and defend the gag rule. At the same time, Attorney General James co-led a coalition of 23 attorneys general in sending a comment letter to HHS, applauding the agency’s proposed rule to undo the harmful, Trump era Title X “gag rule.” Then, just yesterday, Attorney General James co-led a multistate coalition of 24 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the case of Ohio v. Becerra, opposing the plaintiffs' efforts to halt implementation of the new Biden-Harris Administration’s Title X rule promulgated in 2021.