NYC Heads Coalition Urging Supreme Court To Protect Medication Abortion Access

January 30, 2024

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Corporation Counsel Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix today announced that the City of New York is co-leading a coalition.

The coalition is made up of six localities from across the country in filing another amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to protect access to mifepristone — a medication that millions of Americans use each year for medication abortions and miscarriage management. In December 2023, the Supreme Court granted the Biden administration’s request to review an opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in the case Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which would have restricted access to mifepristone. Today’s amicus brief underscores how the Fifth Circuit’s decision can have a direct impact on New York City’s health care system and the city’s ability to provide essential reproductive health services, including medication abortions, to those seeking care. 

The coalition’s amicus brief strongly supports the federal government’s position by emphasizing the severe potential harm to public health and health care systems that would come from suspending the FDA’s longstanding and more recent regulation of mifepristone. It also highlights the dire consequences, increased costs, and potential disruptions to the health care delivery systems that may result.  

New York City has been and will remain a hub for access to reproductive care because reproductive care is health care, and health care is a fundamental right,” said Mayor Adams. “We are proud to lead this coalition in taking action in full support of protecting women’s access to medication abortions. Not only are the courts denying women the right to control their own bodies through this lower court ruling, but they are also endangering our public health care system by forcing it to divert resources to alternate options and procedures — undoubtedly impacting hospitals’ ability to provide care across the board. This decision was nothing more than an effort to control women’s bodies, their choices, and their freedoms, and we will do everything in our power — legally, personally, and politically — to fight this ruling and defend the rights of all women.” 

“The Supreme Court took a step in the right direction when it agreed to review the Fifth Circuit’s misguided ruling, which threatens women’s access to reproductive health care and the stability of our public hospital systems,” said Corporation Counsel Hinds-Radix. “Now the court must reject plaintiffs’ erroneous arguments and keep these FDA regulations in place so the devastating impacts to communities we have detailed in our brief can be avoided.” 

“New York City is committed, through any forum, to protecting reproductive rights and access to reproductive health care,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. “This is yet another way we are lending our voice and taking action to stand up for women’s rights and the rights of any person in need of reproductive care.” 

“Mifepristone is safe and effective and should continue to be a cornerstone of abortion care and reproductive health choices,” said New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “Reproductive health is an integral part of health care and community wellbeing, and in New York City we are proud to lead a public health system that will continue to support safe access for anyone in our city or across the nation seeking care.” 

Today’s brief explains that if restrictions on medication abortion are upheld, demands on public hospitals will increase. Public hospitals, in turn, would then have to divert resources to meet the increased demand for emergency care and for procedural abortions from their existing patients and from new patients who otherwise would have sought care from providers who cannot pivot to providing procedural abortions. According to the brief, at a time when many public hospitals and health care systems are struggling in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fifth Circuit’s decision would make it even more challenging to provide care to vulnerable populations that depend on public health care systems and suffer many acute ailments at above-average rates. The brief explains that an adverse decision by the court couldn’t come at a worse time: thousands of patients in need of all kinds of non-emergency surgical care could find themselves facing significant delays in obtaining procedures, and some may forgo care altogether, leading to worse health outcomes across the board. 

The Supreme Court will likely hear arguments on the case in the spring, with a decision likely sometime near the end of the court’s term in June 2024. The challenged mifepristone regulations remain in place while the case proceeds.  

The City of New York, NYC Health + Hospitals, and Santa Clara County, California co-drafted the amicus brief. They are joined by Los Angeles County, California; San Francisco County and the City of San Francisco, California; Cook County, Illinois; and King County, Washington. 

Today’s filing comes on the heels of the Adams administration’s release of “Women Forward NYC: An Action Plan for Gender Equity,” a more than $43 million investment aimed at making New York City a national leader on gender equity, including for transgender and gender expansive New Yorkers, with the ambitious goal of becoming the most women-forward city in the United States.

Released last week, the action plan addresses gender disparities by connecting women to professional development and higher-paying jobs; dismantling barriers to sexual, reproductive, and chronic health care; reducing gender-based violence against women; and providing holistic housing services, including for formerly incarcerated women and domestic and gender-based violence survivors. Specifically, the action plan commits and invests in furthering the provision of medication abortion through sexual health clinics to increase access to abortion in New York City

In 2022, in its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal right to access safe, legal abortions nationwide. Since that decision, New York City has introduced a range of services to protect and fulfill the local right to access abortion care. Since launching the New York City Abortion Access Hub in November 2022, more than 3,500 callers and over 790 chatters have been directed to reproductive services and resources through NYC Health + Hospitals and providers throughout New York City.  

Anyone in need of abortion services or support in accessing care can receive referrals by calling 877-NYC-AHUB (877-692-2482). For those who might prefer to start the conversation over text, there is now a chat feature to connect you to a phone operator.  

In August 2022, Mayor Adams signed legislation enabling access to no-cost medication abortion at DOHMH sexual health clinics. The service has since expanded to the Jamaica and Central Harlem Sexual Health clinics after launching in Morrisania, Bronx in January 2023. Last year, NYC Health + Hospitals also launched telehealth abortion access through Virtual ExpressCare — becoming the first public health system in the nation to do so.

“… licensed health care professional by video or phone, on-demand, for an assessment …”

Patients in New York City seeking abortion care can schedule a Virtual ExpressCare appointment to speak with a New York state-licensed health care professional by video or phone, on-demand, for an assessment and counseling.

If clinically appropriate and prescribed, patients will be able to receive a medication abortion kit at their New York City address within a few days. This service is available seven days a week, between 9:00 AM and 9:00 PM, and will provide patients with access to safe, legal abortion care. 

Patients can access telehealth abortion care online or by calling (718) 360-8981.

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