Following last month’s leak of a planned ruling by the Supreme Court to revoke Roe v. Wade, the constitutionally protected right to an abortion, on Thursday, New York City Councilmember Carlina Rivera of Manhattan, with Councilmembers Rita Joseph and Jennifer Gutiérrez of Brooklyn, introduced new legislation that would guarantee free access to a medication abortion in New York City.
Data shows medication abortions account for more than half of all abortions nationwide.
"Councilmember Joseph recognizes the urgent need to give women in NYC the right to pursue an abortion if that is the choice they deem appropriate," said a spokesperson for Joseph, who represents Flatbush, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Kensington, Ditmas Park and Southern Crown Heights.
Roe v. Wade and The Future of Reproductive Rights
Roe v. Wade may soon be overturned, meaning that surgical abortions are "certain or likely" to be banned in 26 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
If clinics that provide abortion shut down, women who can't travel to other states may turn to telehealth prescriptions or underground networks to obtain abortion pills, making that method of ending a pregnancy even more common.
Here's what to know about the pills and how they work.
What is a medication abortion?
Medication abortion, also known as medical abortion, typically uses a combination of two drugs to end a pregnancy. This method of abortion does not require a surgical procedure and can be done at home.
The first pill is mifepristone, which blocks a hormone known as progesterone that the body needs for a pregnancy to continue. The second drug, misoprostol, is taken 24 to 48 hours later. This medication causes cramping and bleeding and empties the uterus.
The World Health Organization says that if mifepristone is not available, misoprostol can be used on its own. But the two drugs are more effective together.
The bill, Intro. 507, would require every city-run health care site to offer FDA-approved abortion pills mifepristone and misoprostol, also known as Mifeprex, Korlym, and Cytotec, at no cost to the patient.
"We are introducing this bill because we need the city to start thinking about the future and that we are going to have a huge influx of patients coming from other states seeking abortions," said Rivera, who introduced the bill. "We need to increase access to abortion in New York City to ensure that we continue to have the level of reproductive health care accessibility that we’ve come to expect.”
In 2019, Rivera, alongside members of the Women’s Caucus, fought to establish the nation’s first municipal abortion access fund, committing $250,000 in the New York City budget each year to directly fund abortion care for those who are unable to cover costs. Most recently, in December of 2021, she passed her bill expanding free access to long-acting reversible contraception in New York City.
“New York City has always led on these issues, and we know what’s coming. That’s why we are putting the framework in place to meet what is inevitably going to be increased demand for medication abortion," Rivera said.
According to the spokesperson for Joseph, since the bill's introduction on Thursday, already 3 more councilmembers have signed on. And should Roe v. Wade be overturned, it would not affect Intro. 507, should it become law.
"Councilmember Joseph is fully committed to a woman's right to choose and will always stand with pro-choice advocates and women seeking to make decision about their own bodies," stated the spokesperson for Joseph.