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New York and Minnesota Are Poised to Join California as Abortion Safe Havens

Abortion safe havens may become necessary for many Americans, if the Supreme Court overturns “Roe v. Wade.”

Thousands of protesters gather at the Foley Square in New York City on May 3, 2022, after the leak of a draft majority opinion preparing for the court to overturn the landmark abortion decision in Roe v. Wade.

After a draft ruling from the United States Supreme Court was leaked this week, showcasing how conservative justices on the nation’s highest court intend to overturn Roe v. Wade (the 1973 ruling that made abortion legal everywhere in the U.S.), several states are now poised to become “sanctuaries” for people seeking abortions, if their home states make the procedure illegal.

Several states have “trigger laws” on the books that will automatically ban abortion within their borders if Roe is overturned, while many others have pre-Roe statutes that are still on the books banning the practice.

A number of states, however, are set to become safe havens for Americans seeking to have an abortion in a post-Roe world.

In Minnesota, for example, abortion would remain legal even if Roe is overturned. That’s because, in 1995, the state Supreme Court ruled that a state-recognized right to abortion existed through state constitutional provisions.

Several restrictions remain, however, for people seeking abortions in the state: a person has to wait 24 hours after an initial appointment to have an abortion before the procedure can be carried out; state law requires minors to notify both parents before an abortion can happen; and only doctors can perform abortion services. Those restrictions, too, could soon be lifted, as a lawsuit in the state, set for trial next month, could upend them entirely.

Regardless of whether that lawsuit is successful or not, Minnesota would become the most accessible state in the upper Midwest for people seeking abortions, if Roe is undone. Two states on its border (North Dakota and South Dakota) would ban abortion immediately after the landmark case is overturned, while one other state (Wisconsin) has a pre-Roe statute banning abortion in almost all cases still on its books. Iowa, too, is viewed as highly likely to ban abortion after a decision ending Roe is rendered.

Abortion advocates are mindful that travel to the state is likely to go up after such a verdict happens, which many now see as inevitable. But they’re also cognizant of the fact that not everyone who has a need for an abortion will have the resources to travel to parts of the country where abortions are accessible.

“It is important to underscore that an abortion ban is not an abortion ban for all people,” said Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States, during a recent press conference this week. “It is only an abortion ban for those who lack the means to travel to a state where abortion is safe and accessible. And that is one of the true moral outrages of this situation.”

Democratic lawmakers in New York have also suggested that their state is ready to become another safe haven for abortion in the northeastern region of the U.S., should Roe be overturned. Although several other states in that region of the country would likely uphold and recognize the right to an abortion, New York would become the closest abortion provider for around 200,000 women from outside the state, one analysis from a state lawmaker has found.

New York codified the right to an abortion in its state statutes in 2019 and ended its ban on abortion after the 24th week of pregnancy that same year. The New York City Council has also begun raising funds for abortion services, to provide to those with limited means or incomes the ability to get an abortion, if they so desire.

Democratic lawmakers in the state government have also promised to expand the right in preparation for a verdict from the U.S. Supreme Court on the matter.

“[New York] will be a place where women and families can get the reproductive healthcare they need,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, speaking outside her office on Tuesday. “We will push to make sure these rights are protected and funded.”

California lawmakers have also made similar promises, and are presently looking at passing legislation that would provide funds to out-of-state travelers seeking abortion services if their home states restrict the practice.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has also announced that he and other legislative leaders are looking to pass an amendment to the state constitution recognizing abortion rights.

“California will not stand idly by as women across America are stripped of their rights and the progress so many have fought for gets erased,” Newsom and two other state lawmakers, state Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) and state Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), said in a joint press release this week.

These states, and potentially others, are hoping to ensure that all Americans will still have the right to have an abortion. But that, too, could be challenged, as a new difficulty could emerge: the possibility that restrictive states could place travel bans on their own residents, limiting them in financial or legal ways from being able to terminate their pregnancies.

It’s unclear whether these types of laws are enforceable, but legal experts say that won’t stop far right Republican lawmakers from trying.

“There are going to be a number of states who are not satisfied with just knowing that there’s no abortion happening in their own state. They’re going to want to do more than that,” David S. Cohen, a professor at Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law in Philadelphia, said to Bloomberg Law.