NYC to stop collecting some personal info from abortion recipients

NEW YORK — The city Health Department said Friday it plans to stop collecting some personal information from abortion patients, in part to protect the privacy of out-of-staters who come to New York from places where reproductive rights have been erased after the 2022 reversal of Roe v. Wade.

Under the plan, New York City would no longer collect the date of birth, the birthplace or the marital status of patients who have abortions in the five boroughs, said the health commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan. The name of the provider would also be dropped, replaced by the type of provider, he said.

The city Board of Health is expected to approve the changes next month.

The move is a response to threats facing women from Republican-controlled states who seek abortions. It also comes as an acknowledgment of anxieties that an abortion ban could be implemented at the federal level if the country’s political leadership changes after the November elections.

The city, which has collected abortion data since 1949, has seen waves of out-of-staters coming to the city after the Supreme Court revoked the federal right to abortion, according to City Hall.

At least two states with total abortion bans, Tennessee and Oklahoma, also have bills under consideration that would criminalize helping minors have abortions out of state without parental consent, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights nonprofit.

And Donald Trump, expected to once again be the Republican nominee for president, has reportedly voiced support for the concept of a national 16-week abortion ban, with limited exceptions.

Vasan said the city is motivated to “keep people safe.”

“I mean safe not just in terms of the quality of care,” he said in an interview, “but really keeping people safe in terms of their safety from a very scary and shifting legal and policy environment that the Supreme Court put into motion, and that is in some real debate in an election year now.”

Vasan said the changes would not prevent the city from obtaining the data it needs to expand access and ensure quality services.

In 2022, New York State approved a package of laws protecting health care practitioners from legal consequences for providing abortions to women who come from states where the procedure is outlawed.

Under state law, New York courts and law enforcement agencies are broadly prevented from cooperating with out-of-state criminal cases targeting abortions conducted legally in New York.

In 1970, New York became the second state in the U.S. with broad legalization of abortion, and it expanded reproductive rights with a 2019 law that permits procedures after 24 weeks of pregnancy if necessary to protect a patient’s health.

New York City requires city-run health clinics to offer free abortion medication to patients.

The Supreme Court is due this spring to decide a case that could reduce access to the abortion pill mifepristone, one drug in the two-part sequence typically used in pill-induced abortions. About half of the abortions in the U.S. are carried out with medication.

Mayor Eric Adams’ administration and Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration have both joined friend-of-the-court briefs filed with the Supreme Court urging its justices not to limit Americans’ access to the pill.

“We’re living in very, very strange times,” said Anne Williams-Isom, New York’s deputy mayor for health and human services, expressing shock that reproductive rights are under such threat. “It is our obligation to be clear-eyed about these attacks and what’s ahead.”