Let’s Be Clear: Abortion is Legal in New York State

Every individual who becomes pregnant has the fundamental right to choose to carry the pregnancy to term, to give birth to a child, or to have an abortion…. The state shall not discriminate against, deny, or interfere with the exercise of these rights.

New York Public Health Law § 2599-AA

What are young New Yorkers hearing in these days since Roe v. Wade has been overturned? Given all the coverage about the end of abortion services, do youth know that abortion is still legal in New York State?

One thing you can do in the aftermath of this seismic shift is to make sure the young people you work with understand exactly what is going on. As sexual health educators, you’re no stranger to combating misinformation. Here is a Q&A to support your efforts.

What Happened? I thought they made abortion illegal!

On Friday, June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court withdrew its protection of abortion rights, turning the question of abortion legality over to the states. Now, state governments determine our rights. States have long been able to restrict abortion—for example, many states won’t let minors choose to have abortions unless they have parents’ permission. But now states are free to ban abortions entirely, and many are doing just that.

Fortunately, some states have acted to protect abortion rights—including New York.

What is the law in New York State?

Who can have an abortion in NYS?

In New York State abortion is legal, regardless of a person’s age, when it is performed “within twenty-four weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, or there is an absence of fetal viability, or the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.”*  This means:

In New York State, abortion is legal for any reason up until 24 weeks after pregnancy begins.

The Details: Pregnancy begins when a fertilized egg reaches the blastocyst stage (about 5-6 days after fertilization) and is implanted in the uterus. This definition of pregnancy, which New York State follows, was developed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and has been endorsed by many professional medical associations.**

Once they have been pregnant for 24 weeks, a person may have an abortion for either of these reasons:

  • The fetus has health or developmental conditions that mean it will not be able to survive (the fetus is not “viable”).
  • The person who is pregnant needs an abortion to protect their own life or health.

The Details: When deciding whether or not to provide an abortion at or after 24 weeks to protect a person’s health, a health care provider in New York considers physical, emotional, psychological, and familial factors, as well as the age of the patient.**

If I have an abortion, who will know about it?

Abortion services are confidential in New York State. No matter their age, young people who are capable of understanding the risks and benefits of abortion do not need to inform their parents or partners before having an abortion in New York State.***  While we encourage young people to talk with an adult they trust who can support them in their reproductive health decisions, no one in New York needs anyone else’s permission to get an abortion.

How can I pay for abortion services?

  • In New York State, Medicaid pays for abortion services for those who are eligible.***
  • Private insurance plans that are active in the NY State of Health exchange are required to pay for abortion services.***  
  • Those who are uninsured may be able to find help from abortion funds such as the New York Abortion Access Fund (Español) or other funds in the National Network of Abortion Funds.

Who can provide abortions?

In New York State, abortion services may be provided by certified health care practitioners working within their “lawful scope of practice,” including doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and licensed midwives.****

How can I find a licensed provider?

Abortion Finder provides a directory of legitimate abortion services as well as more information about abortion rights in their state-by-state guide. It’s best to start at this link (or call the hotline below) rather than doing a simple Internet search because there are many “crisis pregnancy centers” advertising online that appear to offer help but do not offer medical services—they want to stop people from getting abortions.*****

Abortion Hotline: Attorney General Letitia James, law firms, and advocacy groups have launched a legal hotline to connect people looking for abortion resources with information. By calling 212-899-5567, patients can access information about their rights and where to go for care. Health care providers and people who are looking to provide abortion resource information to others can also call the hotline. Information is available in 12 languages.

Is a legal right the same as access?

No! For many reasons, young people may have a hard time obtaining abortions in a timely way. Access in New York will also become more difficult now that abortion is illegal in so many states. Demand in New York is going to increase exponentially, making it harder to find appointments.

Abortion Rights Are Under Threat

Let’s be clear about something else, too: Abortion will be legal in New York State unless and until Congress passes, and the president signs, a federal ban. There have already been bills introduced in Congress to ban abortion across the nation. Currently they are unlikely to pass, but this could change as new representatives are elected to Congress and the presidency.

As they learn more about the threat to their rights, young people may want to become involved in this issue. Nonprofit 501(c)3 organizations cannot become involved in electoral politics, but can certainly help youth build the skills to advocate effectively for their rights.****** The voices of young people are truly needed—and we can amplify those voices.

Thank You!

ACT for Youth sends our gratitude to all of you! We know you are doing everything you can to ensure that young people are educated and capable of caring for their sexual and reproductive health. You are on the frontlines of these changing times. Keep letting us know how we can support you.

* Reproductive Health Act, New York State Public Health Law Section 2599-bb. Abortion

** Commissioner Bassett Dear Provider letter, May 6, 2022

*** New York State: Safe Abortion Access for All

**** New York State Senate: FAQs about the Reproductive Health Act

***** NYC Health: Abortion. (See “Fake Clinics in Online Searches”)

****** Idealist: 9 Dos and Don’ts of Nonprofit Advocacy

Help me improve this piece! ACT for Youth will be putting information on our website and we want to make it as clear and informative as possible. Please share your ideas — What would you add or change? How are you communicating with young people about abortion? What resources would you share?

It’s All about Healthy Relationships

This is another in a series of posts highlighting resources that may be somewhat deeply buried on the ACT for Youth website!

Helping Young People Build Relationship Skills

The ACT for Youth website links to MANY resources for educators.

Helping Youth Build Relationship Skills
Newly updated, this part of Preparing Youth for Adulthood connects you with program activities and curricula focused on healthy relationship education, as well as resources for young people.

SEL Toolkit: Relationship Skills
In this section of the SEL Toolkit, we link to strategies and resources that will help youth work professionals teach relationship skills.

Teen Dating Violence
Here we offer resources focused on violence prevention and consent for educators, parents, and youth.

Promoting Healthy Relationship Skills
What can we do to help youth repair and strengthen the qualities of healthy relationships? Mary Maley took on this question in her June 2020 webinar for CAPP, PREP, and SRAE providers.

The Role of Romantic Relationships

Adolescent Romantic Relationships
Why are romantic relationships in adolescence developmentally important? We take a look at that question here.

Enjoy browsing!

~ Karen

What’s on the Website?

With over 150 pages and 235 catalogued publications and presentations, the ACT for Youth website has a wealth of resources—but they’re not always super obvious! This post is the start of a series to highlight ACT for Youth resources you might be interested in that may fall outside of the CAPP, PREP, and SRAE sections.

Today I’ll highlight two free training manuals that you’ll find in the Youth Work Professionals section.

Positive Youth Development 101 Manual

The PYD 101 training manual is ACT for Youth’s most popular resource. Use this free curriculum to provide an orientation to the PYD approach to new youth workers, supervisors, funders, and community volunteers.

Jutta updated the training just before her retirement, adding new resources and activities as well as sections on developmental relationships, inclusive program environments, and deconstructing biases.

The manual includes the facilitator script, slides, activities, and handouts – all freely available on the ACT for Youth website!

Inclusive Program Environments

Another training curriculum I’d like to feature is Creating Inclusive Program Environments for Youth with Different Abilities.

This training aims to provide youth work professionals with information, practices, and activities that will help them promote inclusion and engagement for all young people – particularly those with learning disabilities, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, and/or trauma.

Again, the full curriculum, slides, handouts, and activities are easy to access on the ACT for Youth website. I hope you’ll explore it all!

These manuals are available to everyone in the field of youth work. If there is someone else in your organization who might benefit from them, please share.

Stay tuned for future “What’s on the Website” posts, and if you’re looking for something in particular on the site you can always contact me at ks548@cornell.edu.

~ Karen

Tips for Serving Healthy Food and Beverages

I want to call your attention to our recently revised Guidelines for Healthy Food and Beverages for Adolescent Health Programs, which ACT for Youth published for youth-serving providers funded by the New York State Department of Health.

Recipes, nutrition facts, and tips

Although over the past year we have not been able to gather for in-person events, hopefully that tide is changing! Soon we will once again be able to share meals and provide refreshments to program participants – making it a good time to review these guidelines and remind ourselves about the importance of nutrition, which is so integral to adolescent health. 

By making simple changes to the food and drinks we serve at programs, groups, and community events, we can impact young people’s health in positive and powerful ways. As a provider of youth services, you are in an ideal position to help young people improve their health by offering healthy food choices, raising awareness about nutrition, and engaging participants in menu planning and food preparation activities. This publication provides you with easy and practical ideas on how to accomplish these tasks, including factual information, recipes, money-saving tips, and implementation strategies. In the process, your program may help to support healthy eating habits and life skills that not only ensure proper growth during a critical development stage but will continue into adulthood.

We hope that by following these Guidelines, you can make a difference in the lives of our youth and in the generations to come.

~ Jane Powers