The Town of Huntington board repealed an old code, Chapter 155, at its Oct. 19 meeting that limited pregnancy terminations to hospitals.
The law was adopted Dec. 8, 1970, and the regulation required “justifiable abortion acts, as defined in the Penal Law of New York State, shall be performed only in a hospital duly licensed and accredited under the New York State Department of Health and having equipment and facilities acceptable to the State Hospital Review and Planning Council.”
Chapter 155 allowed the town to order a cease and desist to a facility that was not authorized and permitted by the town to perform the procedure. The misdemeanor also carried a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 15 days. However, due to the practice of medicine being within the authority of the NYSDOH, the law was never enforced.
At the Oct. 19 board meeting, Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D), who sponsored the measure, said she had the support of her colleagues.
“This is a violation of New York State law,” she said.
She added similar laws had been struck down in Hempstead [in 1972] as the law is unenforceable due to towns and villages not having police power to regulate police procedures.
“This has been a moot law on the books that is 52 years overdue to be removed because it has no effect at all, no matter what the laws of the land are, this law has no powers,” Cergol said. “It’s a paper tiger.”
The board held a public hearing on the motion. While some speakers gave their opinions as to why the code should remain on the books or not, a few used the opportunity to share their beliefs on abortion.
Among the speakers were representatives from the League of Women Voters who were on hand to support the repeal of the code.
Michael Lobasso asked the council members to remember “the spirit and intent” of the Town Board when the law was established. He said the board in 1970 had the foresight to choose a hospital as the safest place to have an abortion. Lobasso asked the current Town Board to ask themselves what is their intent and if they want to promote abortion procedures in any part of the town, and what precautionary procedures will they request of facilities. He asked the members to reconsider.
A mother carrying her baby was the last to come up to the microphone. She said it was great to repeal the “archaic” law, while it may not have a direct impact now due to state laws but could in the future. She said a few years ago when she had pregnancy complications, she was unable to access care in Huntington. She was told to go to Stony Brook University Hospital or Manhasset, which she said was costly and emotionally difficult.
The board voted unanimously to repeal the law.
In a statement released after the board meeting, Cergol said, “I am proud to join other local municipalities on Long Island to repeal outdated regulations on where a woman can choose to terminate her pregnancy. The state judiciary and Legislature have made it clear: The Town of Huntington does not have the authority to regulate this issue.”