New York State legislation supports virtual reproductive health care services

By Marco Melchionna

– In support of access to virtual reproductive health care services, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation to allow health care providers to prescribe abortion drugs to patients in states with barriers to accessing reproductive health care.

In the United States, access to abortion services is becoming increasingly limited. Most abortions are banned in 14 states, while others place gestational limits on the procedure. Some states have also banned medical abortion through telemedicine. In 2021, for example, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem stepped in to ban telehealth abortions in the state.

On the other hand, states where abortion remains legal are taking steps to expand access.

Thus, on the eve of the first anniversary of the overturning of the Supreme Court Roe versus Wade. Hochul signed legislation to expand access to reproductive health care, especially access to virtual abortion resources, to out-of-state residents. Through the law, state providers will have the ability to extend telehealth abortion services to out-of-state patients. The law will also allow services to be provided without fear of litigation in states where telehealth abortion is banned.

The new legislation expands on the law passed in 2022 that protected New York health care providers who offered abortion services to out-of-state residents when the resident was present in the state in person.

“We are seeing a shameful regression of women’s rights in this country as abortion access is restricted in states across the nation,” Hochul said in a news release. “In New York, we remain committed to ensuring that abortion remains safe, affordable, and legal. This legislation will help more women access medical abortion and reproductive care by ensuring our health care providers can provide telehealth services to patients at the out of state without fear of legal or professional repercussions. With this bill, New York continues to fight against restrictive abortion laws and help more people access the care they need.”

Other New York state representatives applauded the new piece of legislation.

“This legislation will protect healthcare professionals as they practice medicine and care for the health needs of their patients. That protection is a key part of being someone’s doctor. I thank Governor Hochul for his leadership on this issue and for doing everything he can to help keep abortion safe, accessible and legal in New York State,” said the New York State Department of Health Commissioner James McDonald, MD, in the press release.

Additionally, Hochul noted plans to continue supporting abortion services in 2024. As part of next year’s fiscal year budget, there will be an increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates to increase abortion access. . It will also include data protection, requirements for private insurers to cover abortion with off-label drugs, and $100.7 million in funding to support abortion and reproductive health care.

Many similar efforts in various states have been driven by the goal of supporting virtual abortion services.

In July 2022, a group of Texas Democrats wrote to the White House with a number of potential strategies to support drug-based abortions, including those delivered through telehealth.

The letter was sent following the overturn of Roe versus Wade, which led to the elimination of abortion access in many states. Because Texas is a region where abortion access is severely restricted, many residents have to travel out of state for assistance.

The letter said the Biden administration could take several steps to support those in need of reproductive health care. These include declaring a public health emergency, creating a federal program through which providers who are federal employees or contractors can dispense abortion drugs, and protecting third-party abortion drug providers from actions civil and criminal.

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