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New York Legislature Passes Bill that Shields Interstate Abortion Providers

Abortion is expected to be one of the top issues in 2024 and state legislatures are making sure it is. In red states, the legislatures are banning it right and left (well, right and further right), but in blue states legislatures are trying to help red state residents evade those bans. On Tuesday, the New York State legislature passed a bill that will protect state doctors who provide telehealth abortion services from out-of-state lawsuits. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has said that she will sign the bill. Once she has signed it, if a doctor in New York prescribes and/or sends abortion pills to someone in a state that bans abortions and that state sues the doctor for violating its laws, the new bill orders the New York State courts not to cooperate with the other state. In particular, if the other state asks New York to extradite the doctor, New York courts will refuse to do so, citing state law. In practice, that means that as long as the doctor does not set foot in the other state (and that includes changing planes at a red state airport), there is nothing the other state can do about it. At least, not until the first case hits the Supreme Court.

New York is not the first state to pass such a law. Colorado, Massachusetts, Vermont and Washington have similar laws, but New York is a big blue state with a lot of doctors, many of whom are quite willing to prescribe and/or mail abortion pills to women in other states who need them. They will soon be able to do this safely, without worrying about the laws of other states. Some of the doctors are quite open about it. For example, Dr. Linda Prine, cofounder of the Miscarriage and Abortion Hotline, said that she and at least three other doctors will start mailing the pills to women in states where abortion is banned as soon as Hochul signs the bill. A similar bill is working its way through the California legislature.

Of the 14 states that ban abortions, all have penalties for people who provide or help provide abortions, but do not penalize women who get the abortions. If the abortion provider is out of state and that state's laws make prosecuting or suing the providers legally void, it will be very difficult for the 14 states to enforce their bans. Searching the mail for out-of-state packages would be illegal as the USPS is a federal, not a state, organization. It will also be impractical as providers will surely use standard unobtrusive boxes used for many products and use as return addresses P.O. boxes (or maybe not put any return address on the boxes). If they really want to get sneaky, they could put stickers reading: "Here are your yummy brownies" or "Here are your dental supplies" or some such on the boxes. Maybe "Here are your Generals of the Confederacy collectible plates." We bet red-state governments let those right through. (V)

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