A confidential call center at a secure location in New York City recently began receiving phone calls from people across the country. On one end are people facing a critical moment in their lives. On the other end, trained, empathic navigators are listening to callers, assessing their needs, connecting them to abortion care and other resources.
This is the core of the newly launched New York City Abortion Access Hub, connecting people to care they need wherever they are.
New York City is the first municipality to launch this kind of navigation service. And we hope we are not the last. Anyone nationwide can call to obtain a referral to abortion providers here in the city.
The hub also offers service connections to partners who can offer financial assistance and supports such as transportation, lodging and Medicaid enrollment. Incoming phone numbers to the hub are hidden, and only basic demographic information like age, education and income is collected.
New York City stands ready to help
The NYC Abortion Access Hub continues our city’s legacy of serving as a reproductive health refuge. Abortion is an essential part of basic reproductive health care, and access to abortion care is a public health issue.
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When New York legalized abortion in 1970, about 350,000 people came to New York City for abortions prior to the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that made abortion legal nationwide. Pre-Roe, 3 out of 4 abortions in the country were performed in the state of New York – with the vast majority here in New York City.
The national landscape of abortion care has changed since 1973. But a recent report by the Guttmacher Institute notes women are still traveling from states with abortion bans to undergo the procedure legally. It is still too soon to know the full magnitude of shifts post-Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. What we do know is that New York City has some of the best health care in the world. Patients will continue to come here for help – and we stand ready to offer that help.
We also know abortions are common: About 1 in 4 women have had an abortion by age 45. But not all people have equal access to abortion care. Even before the Dobbs decision, many New Yorkers struggled to find and pay for abortion care and other reproductive health services.
We know that Black, Latinx and low-income communities are especially burdened when abortion services are restricted or criminalized. Ensuring access means removing systemic and structural barriers to abortion care, which disproportionately impacts Black and brown communities. This is a health care issue, a human rights issue and an equity issue.
'These are American values'
Because pregnancy comes with associated health risks and dangers that are often not acknowledged, the alternative to ensuring access to abortion is unacceptable.
A study found that women who were denied abortions and gave birth were more likely to stay in contact with a violent partner, reported more health problems such as migraines and gestational hypertension, had four times greater odds of subsequently living in poverty, and were three times more likely to be unemployed or to lack the resources for housing and food as compared with women who received abortions.
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New York City will not turn away from our responsibility to mitigate the harms caused by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. Abortion is and will remain legal here.
And our commitment to sexual and reproductive justice means simply having the right to an abortion is not enough. We want to ensure all people have the ability to exercise that right. In this moment, the New York City Health Department, Mayor Eric Adams and the New York City Council stand in solidarity with anyone obtaining abortion care in our city.
This moment requires standing up for our values, human rights, women’s rights and for basic dignity. These have been part of New York City’s values. These are American values. And we are proud to live our values to ensure abortion remains an accessible option for all.
Dr. Ashwin Vasan is commissioner of the New York City Health Department. Dr. Leslie Hayes serves as deputy commissioner and Laura Louison is assistant commissioner.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Need an abortion? How NYC officials are helping people across the US