After two hours of heated debate, North Hempstead City Council voted unanimously on Thursday to repeal a 50-year-old section of city code that limited when pregnancies could be terminated to hospitals, facilities run by a hospital or establishments affiliated with a hospital.
The public hearing, which drew 25 comments, was a continuation of a two-hour hearing in which City Council Democrats voted 4-2 along party lines to push the vote to Thursday evening.
Republican Supervisor Jennifer DeSena did not attend the August meeting, saying she had a “long-standing prior family commitment,” leaving Deputy Supervisor Joe Scalero to lead the meeting, but without any voting rights.
On Thursday, DeSena revised her explanation, saying she was in Delaware with her family on vacation.
State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-North Hills), who spoke in favor of repealing the law, criticized DeSena for her absence in August and the change of reason she gave.
“Supervisor, I was disappointed that you couldn’t be here last time because I know so many of our residents are eager to know whether or not you support a woman’s right to access an abortion. in the town of North Hempstead.” Kaplan said at the meeting.
Kaplan, who is running for re-election to the state Senate and once served on city council, then questioned DeSena’s claim that she missed the August meeting because she was on vacation.
“It should be noted that the Town of North Hempstead sets dates for board meetings early in the year to avoid such personal scheduling conflicts, and Supervisor DeSena didn’t mention she had a conflict when the critically important item was added to the August meeting agenda,” Kaplan said.
City Attorney Frank Chiara said council’s vote was not needed at the start of the meeting in response to a request from DeSena to outline local law, Chapter 41A, its history and its application today.
“There’s no real effectiveness, it’s inapplicable,” Chiara said. “It’s a law on the books that’s against state law.”
The local law was passed on August 10, 1971, a year after the state Senate legalized abortion up to the 24th week of pregnancy and two years before the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade, which allowed abortions in the first two trimesters. pregnancy in the United States.
In June, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe, ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that the US Constitution does not grant the right to abortion.
In 1971, more than half of the 16,593 women who had abortions on Long Island used non-hospital clinics in Nassau County, according to The New York Times.
At the time, North Hempstead limited abortion access to hospitals only as well as the towns of Glen Cove and Long Beach, the towns of Hempstead and Oyster Bay, and the Suffolk County towns of Babylon and Suffolk, according to the New York Times.
Since the law was passed in North Hempstead, its applicability has been superseded by New York state public health and education laws that overrule it, Chiara said.
Many residents and Democratic Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey have expressed the need to repeal Chapter 41A due to the November gubernatorial election and the uncertainty that can come from not knowing who will win.
“I want to emphasize that no one knows who will be governor at the end of the year,” Lurvey said. “Any new governor can decide to change state law regarding abortions and medical procedures.”
In the vote, Democrat Robert Troiano said repeal supporters were able to provide more data on their positions, as opposed to assertions and anecdotal evidence.
“While I was convinced by the sincerity of both positions tonight,” Troiano said. “I am not convinced by the arguments. I’d like to say that I believe a woman’s right to choose extends to tonight. I vote yes.
DeSena also voted yes, explaining that it removes an outdated law from the books.
“I support the repeal of this chapter and am voting yes as it brings North Hempstead’s town code into line with state law and removes a chapter of our code that is unenforceable and replaced with the law of New York Public Health.”
The next North Hempstead Town Council meeting will be on Thursday 22nd September.