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Sexual Behaviors and Health

 
Why do we say "pregnant people"?
ACT for Youth uses inclusive language to describe people who can become pregnant. While most female-bodied people identify as girls or women, some people with uteruses, such as transgender men and some nonbinary people, do not identify as women. For more on inclusive language, see the resource below.

SOGIE Handbook

Young People and Abortion 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

Abortion is Legal in New York State

What happened? I thought they made abortion illegal!

On 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 what is or is not legal. States have long been able to restrict abortion up to a point. But states are now free to ban abortions entirely, and many are doing just that. (See the Center for Reproductive Rights map: Abortion Laws by State.)

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

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" [1].

In New York State, abortion is legal for any reason up until 24 weeks after pregnancy begins. 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 [2].

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

  • The fetus has critical health or developmental conditions that it will not survive (the fetus is not "viable").
     
  • The person who is pregnant needs an abortion to protect their own life or health. 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 [2].

Confidentiality Laws in New York State

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 [3]. While providers do encourage young people to talk with an adult who can support them in their reproductive health decisions, no one in New York needs anyone else's permission to get an abortion.

Paying for Abortion Services

  • In New York State, Medicaid pays for abortion services for those who are eligible [3].
     
  • Private insurance plans that are active in the NY State of Health exchange are required to pay for abortion services [3].
     
  • 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.

Finding an Abortion Provider in New York State

Who can provide abortions?
In New York State, abortion services may be provided by certified advanced practice clinicians working within their "lawful scope of practice," including doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and licensed midwives [4].

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. Rather than searching the internet for a provider, it's best to start with Abortion Finder or call the hotline below. An internet search will include many "crisis pregnancy centers" that appear to offer help but do not offer medical services -- they use deceptive practices to stop people from getting abortions [5].

Abortion Hotline: 212-899-5567
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 learn 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.

Abortion Rights Are Under Threat

A legal right is not the same as access. For many reasons, young people may have a hard time obtaining abortions in a timely way. Youth take longer to recognize that they are pregnant; some may not be having regular periods yet. It may take longer for young people to make arrangements and work out how to pay for services. In many states outside of New York, restrictions on minors' rights cause extensive delays. Access in New York will also become more difficult now that abortion is illegal in so many states: demand in New York is expected to increase exponentially, making it harder to find appointments.

Abortion is likely to remain safe and legal in New York State unless and until Congress passes, and the president signs, a federal ban. Bills have been 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 (see sidebar for examples of advocacy opportunities) [6].

References

[1]   Reproductive Health Act, New York State Public Health Law Section 2599-bb. Abortion
[2]   Commissioner Bassett Dear Provider letter, May 6, 2022
[3]   New York Law and the Provision of Abortion Care
[4]   NYC Health: Abortion (See "Fake Clinics in Online Searches")
[5]   Idealist: 9 Dos and Don'ts of Nonprofit Advocacy
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