Lawyers Organize State-by-State Legislative Initiative to Fight Back Against Reversal of Roe v. Wade
New York, N.Y, June 24, 2022 — Today, following the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, a movement has begun to pass the Santoro Act in states across the country and to create a Nationwide Sanctuary Network that ensures access to safe, timely, legal abortion services for all American women regardless of geography or economic means. The Santoro Act is designed as a legislative template that can be adapted to the needs and existing statutes of states from coast to coast. The bill creates a public-private partnership fund that provides financial assistance for travel and abortion services to states participating in the Nationwide Sanctuary Network, through adoption of the Santoro Act, for women from states where abortions are either illegal or unavailable.
The bill also contains provisions for civil and criminal liability for acts obstructing the right to receive or provide abortion services created by the statute, and for disseminating false information about the legality or medical advisability of abortions. These features will help to address the systemic problem of “crisis centers” providing false information to women to run out the clock on sought after abortions.
A summary of the Santoro Act is below. To view the draft legislation, visit here.
Jim Walden, the author of the bill, states, “Today’s decision in Dobbs is extremely troubling, but progressive states must now act with verve to quickly create a Nationwide Sanctuary Network. The time for division and acrimony on the left must now come to an end and we must all pull together to protect the reproductive freedom and choices of women across the country. Only through coordinated action will we protect the women and girls left in the lurch by the Court’s radical departure from Roe’s precedent.”
Walden continues, “We want this bill to be part of a renaissance of progressive action that is highly organized and strategic, and that shows up on the battlefield where the fight for our rights against the ultra-conservative fringe is really happening which is in state legislatures, Congress and the Courts. Action must supplant protest. We know that most Americans support the right of women to control their own bodies, and we intend to accept nothing but a victory in this war on women.”
Yesterday, Ms. Magazine published a feature story on the start of the nationwide campaign to create an abortion sanctuary network in New York. In May a prominent group of celebrities including Amy Schumer, Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Lange, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Laura Linney, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Liza Colón-Zayas, Aaron Sorkin, Patricia Clarkson, Ethan Hawke, Nathan Lane and many others signed an open letter supporting the bill.
The Santoro Act was introduced in the New York State Assembly in May and lawmakers plan to reintroduce an updated version of the bill in the fall.
Key features of the Santoro Act are as follows:
— Overview: The Santoro Act protects women in the United States in the exercise of their personal control over their bodies and health care decisions, protects commerce between the States, and provides financial assistance to eligible women from outside the State seeking abortions in a participating State. The legislation may be customized and enacted by various state legislatures across the country to create a network of participating Nationwide Sanctuary States that share similar statutes.
— Public–Private Non–Profit Access Fund: Creates a public-private partnership in the form of a not-for-profit fund to provide financial assistance to support abortion access for all eligible women in the United States, regardless of geography or economic means. The not-for-profit may be funded by both state funds and private donations.
— Eligibility: Assistance will be made available to women who seek an abortion that is either unlawful or unavailable in their state but is both legal and available in a participating Nationwide Sanctuary State, and who do not have the means to pay for medical care or travel.
— Timely, Medically–appropriate and Compassionate: The program seeks to provide assistance in a manner that is timely, compassionate and deemed medically-appropriate by a licensed treating physician to address the needs of each applicant.
— Fast–Track: In certain circumstances, the department of health of the State will implement a fast-track option for a determination and notice of financial assistance within 48 hours of receipt of an individual’s application.
— Tele–health: The department of health regulations of participating States shall permit physicians within the State to provide medical abortions to out-of-state residents through mail order pharmacies and telehealth consultations, in which the patient would use the medication in their home state, or in a nearby state. All medical services and pharmacy services for Tele-Health will be deemed to be provided within the State where the physician or pharmacy is located, regardless of where the patient resides.
— Common Carriers: The State will seek to enter into agreements with common carriers, hotel chains, auto, rail, air travel and other service providers, separately or in cooperation with other sanctuary states, for the purpose of administering the Program in a cost-efficient and compassionate manner.
— Common App: The State may participate in a common app that a. provides nationwide, universal access to apply for services under the law, b. evaluates applications to determine the closest, most timely and appropriate services for each applicant and c. provides applicants with access to negotiated rates and services with common carriers.
— Cooperation: States may seek to enter into pacts with other states that enact laws similar to the Santoro Act so that funds and resources from various states can be pooled. This will allow for resources to be used most efficiently and extended to as many women as possible so that eligible patients can be safest, most medically appropriate, timely, compassionate and least disruptive manner.
— Health Insurance: To the extent permitted by law, the program will seek to obtain reimbursement from the patient’s health insurance.
— Civil Liability and Private Right of Action: Any person, other than an officer or employee of a state or local governmental entity in this State, may bring a civil suit against anyone who unduly obstructs or hinders any person from exercising her right to receive abortion services in the enacting State, or against anyone who unduly obstructs or hinders a medical professional from providing abortions or abortion-related services in the enacting State. Civil liability extends to anyone who provides false or misleading information to any woman, within or outside the State, about the availability or medical advisability of an abortion or the right to travel to the State created in the statute.
— Criminal Liability: The State’s penal law will be amended to criminalize Abortion Obstruction. A person is guilty of Abortion Obstruction when he or she knowingly obstructs, impedes or hinders, through a physical act or threats of violence any person from exercising the right to access abortion services in the State. Criminal liability extends to anyone who provides false or misleading information directly to a pregnant woman concerning the right to abortion services created by the statute, even if the false or misleading information is disseminated to the victim outside the State.
— Immunity: The State shall not participate in or provide information to out-of-state investigations, lawsuits, or criminal prosecutions related to an abortion that is lawfully performed in the participating state, including in response to a subpoena.
— Non–Extradition: This State shall not extradite a person to another state for having an abortion in this State under this Act.
— Legal Defense: The bill establishes a panel of qualified lawyers to defend people charged with crimes related to receiving or providing abortion services, wherever those charges are brought, at no charge to the accused, using program funds when appropriate.
Supporters of the Santoro Act speak out:
Aaron Sorkin: “We are at a crossroads where women’s constitutional right to equality and reproductive freedom is in the crosshairs of an extremist Supreme Court majority. We cannot sit by idly as 49 years of progress for women is reversed. The Santoro Act is the critical first step to build a Nationwide Sanctuary Network with funding from the first-ever public-private, nonprofit partnership that will ensure women anywhere in America can safely access legal abortion services. I support this bill with my whole heart and hope many states will pass identical laws to make the network a functioning reality.”
New York State Assemblymember Charles Lavine: “Never in all the history of the United States has a Supreme Court utterly eviscerated a right of the American people. In addition to being a fundamental constitutional right, abortion is as well a human right. We Americans have a proud and honored record of fighting to secure our rights. We must now resolve to battle once again to regain and protect a right that no American should ever have dared to destroy. The Santoro Act is the first step toward creating a Nationwide Sanctuary Network for women in need, and the first-ever private-public partnership to build a war chest to ensure reproductive autonomy.”
Amy Schumer: “Federal and state lawmakers across the country cannot wait to arrest women and girls. This is insulting and I’m proud that New York stands with women and girls by supporting our right to make our own decisions regarding our own bodies. Lawmakers standing in the way of our rights are the true criminals, they should be arrested and have their citizenship revoked.”
Daphne Rubin-Vega: “I fully support this initiative to prioritize access to safe and legal abortion services for all women in the United States regardless of their geography or economic means. We stand to protect women’s health by specifically addressing the state legislatures across the country that imperil our bodies, our quality of life and our basic humanity.”
Chris Hegedus: “We need a multipronged strategy for protecting women’s rights and abortion access in this country. Yes, we need to protest but we also need a serious, coordinated legislative strategy. The way to protect access to reproductive health is to change the law, and if that means doing it state by state, that’s what we’ll have to do. When I was growing up in Massachusetts, I witnessed a close friend go through a terrible trauma from a back-alley abortion because safe and legal abortion access wasn’t available. We can’t go back to the dark ages, we need to change the law to fight this fight and to ensure our daughters don’t have their rights stripped away.”
Amy Ryan: “We need progressive states to come together to create a Nationwide Sanctuary Network, infused with donations from philanthropists who care about reproductive freedoms. It is urgent. If Roe v. Wade is reversed, hundreds of thousands of women and girls will need to have the infrastructure in place to control their own bodies. If we fail to act now, their lives will suffer beyond measure.”