ITHACA, N.Y.—Ithaca has declared itself a sanctuary city for abortions and reproductive healthcare after a unanimous vote at Common Council on Wednesday, July 6.
After the Supreme Court draft detailing its plan to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked to Politico in early May, Robert Cantelmo, Alderperson for Ithaca Common Council, introduced an ordinance to make Ithaca a “sanctuary town” for abortions and reproductive health care. Ithaca’s ordinance prohibits the use of any city resources from cooperating with outside jurisdictions or detaining individuals who travel to Ithaca for an abortion from a state where the procedure is illegal.
The city’s legislation is similar to when Common Council passed a bill making Ithaca a “sanctuary city” for undocumented immigrants in 2017, in defiance of federal law under former President Donald Trump.
After passing at Common Council, the ordinance will be added as an amendment to the city’s “Human Rights Protection” section of the municipal code and would add Article VII “Protection of Reproductive Rights.” The ordinance will take effect immediately.
The bill is similar to the package of abortion protections signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision, though it also states that any city employee cannot participate in outside investigations into someone traveling into Ithaca from out of state for an abortion. The state’s law only prevents law enforcement from doing so.
Cantelmo said the new law represents a set of values for the city of Ithaca and with its passing, confirms the city’s belief in the right to reproductive health care.
“We see around the country, several jurisdictions capitalizing on the expected Supreme Court decision and trying to roll back human rights further,” Cantelmo said in an interview before the Supreme Court’s ruling. “And I think as a community, we are trying to reaffirm our support for human rights and health care and equality by articulating this position.”
The Ithaca Tenants Union has been in favor of the ordinance since its initial announcement, issuing a statement detailing its support. The union emphasized the importance of reproductive healthcare from a housing standpoint, explaining that control over one’s housing must include control over family planning.
“Across issues, when the state or federal government fails to uphold our rights, it’s up to our local government to step in and step up to protect our safety, health, and autonomy,” the statement said. “Abortion, like all healthcare, should be free to access, on demand, without apology. Reproductive rights truly impact and should be important to people of every identity and class — but they’re particularly impactful for Black women and mothers, who are heavily mistreated and economically exploited by a largely white landlording class, and are often the first to be denied healthcare and other resources. This bill enshrines the value of using maximum local legislative power to protect the freedoms of the marginalized — even in the face of threats by higher conservative powers — into Ithaca City Law.”
In preparation for an influx of patients seeking abortions at Planned Parenthood of Greater New York (PPGNY) clinics, the organization issued a press release detailing plans to accommodate more patients. Included in the press release are promises of increased abortion appointment availability by 20%, assistance with travel, lodging and secure funding for patients who need to travel from abortion-hostile states, and expanding abortion services in the Southern Tier to mitigate unnecessary delays of patients traveling to New York.
Prior to Roe being overturned, several states established “trigger bans” to take effect as soon as the court overturned it. There are 13 states that will outlaw abortion when the trigger bans go into effect 30 days after June 24. These states are Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
PPGNY spokesperson Jacquelyn Marrero said in a statement that clinics in New York state are already seeing the effects of the court’s decision.
“We are already seeing first-hand the harmful impact abortion bans are having on people in their home states,” Marrero said. “Texas’s S.B. 8 has forced people from Texas to travel to our health center in New York to get an abortion because they were unable to get the critical care they needed at home. Days after Oklahoma passed its total abortion ban, we provided abortion care to a patient who was unable to get health care in her home state. […] We are bracing for a future where even more people will turn to New York for compassionate, non-judgmental abortion care. However, let me be clear: no one should have to travel from Ohio to Ithaca to access essential health care – and abortion is health care.”
Common Council member Jorge DeFendini said the proposal sets a standard for other cities to follow.
“I think we’re doing a really important job here, not just ensuring reproductive rights and bodily autonomy for all those who reside in Ithaca and who will come here seeking support in line with our values,” he said. “I think we’re setting an important precedent for other cities, I think this should be a model for other states to [follow] in terms of what you should be doing when the federal government or state government, depending on where you are, fails you.”