By Madeline Armstrong
Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and jeopardized a woman’s right to choose, Planned Parenthood health centers on Long Island have seen an influx of patients from out of state seeking abortions.
“We’re certainly seeing more patients and we’re certainly feeling more pressure from the surrounding states where the decision meant that states were able to challenge those abortion laws,” said Stacy De-Lin, associate medical director for Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic and a provider at the Smithtown location. “There are a number of states where things are in the works to put restrictions on abortion.”
As a state where abortion is protected under state law, New York has always seen patients from states with restrictions on abortion. However, a number of states have enacted trigger laws that were waiting to take effect in the event that Roe v. Wade was overturned.
“Planned Parenthood of Greater New York providers are seeing firsthand the emotional trauma abortion bans have on people who travel to New York from abortion-hostile states,” said Jacquelyn Marrero, vice president of communications and marketing with Planned Parenthood Greater New York. Consequently, centers across New York have received an overwhelming number of patients.
In response, PPHP and PPGNY have expanded their services and access. “Immediately after that decision [Roe v. Wade], PPGNY increased their abortion appointment availability by 20 percent across all three of our health centers. which cover 55% of New York State,” Marrero said. PPGNY is also increasing telehealth medication abortion and expanding their services to include second trimester abortions.
PPGNY has announced that it will be instating a care coordinator. This person will be dedicated to connecting patients who are out of state with the PPGNY healthcare network. They will provide assistance with travel, lodging and scheduling appointments. “Our doors will continue to remain open at Planned Parenthood,” De-Lin said.
The town of North Hempstead is also making efforts to expand access to care. On Aug. 4, North Hempstead town officials held a hearing to amend a section of the town code 41A that regulates where abortion can be provided in North Hempstead. According to the code, abortions can only be performed in a facility that is associated with a hospital. The amendment to the code was presented by Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey.
“The town code was adopted in 1971 prior to the U.S. Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade. The 1971 town code is antiquated and places an undue burden on a woman terminating a pregnancy as well as on medical professionals who are performing the procedure,” Lurvey said at the opening of the hearing.
“The town should not be putting up barriers on a woman’s right to choose. Medical professionals, family, clergy, close confidants, those are the people who a woman might consult. The North Hempstead town board should not have a say on this issue,” Lurvey said.
This statement was met with strong applause. However, Supervisor Jennifer DeSena was not present at the hearing and this was addressed by the first resident to take the pulpit.
“It is really disappointing to see Supervisor DeSena is not here to vote,” said state Sen. Anna Kaplan. “I would have hoped that as a woman that she would have been here to stand up for us. Residents of the town of North Hempstead have the right to know where she stands.”
Kathleen Gafny, a physician licensed in New York State, a volunteer with the Nassau County Medical Reserve Corps and the former Nassau County commissioner of health, spoke about what New York was like before abortion was legal in the United States.
“In 1951 my older sister Charlotte was a student nurse at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City where at any time two full wards were filled with women with life-threatening consequences of kitchen table abortions,” she said.
There were also a number of people who expressed concern about abortion centers not being associated with a hospital. “We are simply asking that a medical facility that will provide abortions at least be affiliated with an emergency service and a hospital so that a woman’s life is not put in jeopardy,” said Eric Spinner.
In rebuttal, many people pointed out that colonoscopies, oral surgeries and plastic surgeries are often done in a facility that is not affiliated with a hospital. But some people simply stated that they do not want an abortion center in their town and communities.
In response, Karen Seltzer, chair of PPGNY, said there is a need for additional centers due to the increasing number of patients from out of state. There is also concern for those who may not have health insurance or transportation and additional abortion clinics may be essential for them to receive the healthcare they need, she said.
“We have financial counselors who are able to come to our clinic,” De-Lin said. “Patients are never turned away because of cost. Once they reach our doors, we are able to help them no matter what.”
Councilman Robert Troiano closed the meeting by asking Lurvey to defer the public hearing until Sept. 1.
“Prior to this meeting, I was receiving emails from people saying that they wanted to be here, but they couldn’t and asking for a postponement,” Troiano said. “In fact, the supervisor couldn’t make it tonight.”
The public hearing will be continued on Sept. 1 when the town board will vote on the matter.