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New York's abortion laws leave some women 'no choice' except travel, SoHo pop-up argues

The exhibit offers insight into the obstacles faced by later abortion patients who leave the state for care.

The No Choice Travel Agency pop-up is open

The No Choice Travel Agency pop-up is open from Thursday to Sunday at 230A Mulberry St.
  Photo Credit: Erika Christensen

The No Choice Travel Agency has popped up in SoHo — but don't look to book a vacation.

Instead, the exhibition highlights the current state of reproductive rights in New York, and educates the public of the challenges — emotionally and financially — faced by patients who have had to travel to seek an abortion after 24 weeks.

New York State allows an abortion after 24 weeks only if the woman's life is at risk. The law has no provision in the third trimester if a fetus is not viable.

Visitors to the pop-up are introduced to three packages by a travel agent. The packages include “peak access” which takes patients to Boulder, Colorado; the “high and dry” package that takes patients to Albuquerque, New Mexico; and the “highway robbery” package, which takes patients to Bethesda, Maryland. All three states allow a patient to cross state lines for care.

Erika Christensen, a Brooklyn resident and advocate with the RHAVote campaign, which argues for the passage of the Reproductive Health Act, said New York's abortion laws are outdated.

“Patients are leaving our state at great expense to get the care they need," Christensen said. "And those who are less lucky are forced to carry doomed pregnancies because they can’t afford the high cost of travel and expensive out-of-pocket medical care costs.”

Christensen, who had to travel to Colorado at 32 weeks to get a shot that would start the process of a third-trimester abortion due to a "complicated pregnancy," said the cost of her trip was on the inexpensive side at $10,000.

"We had to borrow from my parents, it's still a lot of money," she said. "I know people who have had to pay $30,000; it's a lot of money. No one has that kind of thousands laying around."

Aside from the financial challenges, the pop-up offers visitors travel-themed information about the destination, prices for airfare, car rentals and hotels, as well as reviews from women who have taken the step to cross state lines.

"Many stories vary. Some people have great experiences while others don’t," Christensen said. “Personally, I had a terrible experience. I felt like a criminal the whole time, being across the country instead of my own doctor’s office."

Christensen said her own personal experience is what inspired her to create the No Choice Travel Agency pop-up.

"This is an idea that's been brewing and we're finally able to do it," Christensen said. "We're trying to reach people who aren't educated with this, or going through it, to see the practical ramifications when [women] are denied the health care we need."

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has been vocal about strengthening the state's laws, particularly as the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh gives the nine-member body five noted conservatives.

"We will not wait for our rights to be taken away," Cuomo said on Twitter. "Here in New York, I vow to codify Roe v. Wade within the first 30 days of my next administration, strengthen our common-sense gun safety laws and continue our progress expanding access to quality affordable health care. While extreme conservatives in Washington try to take this nation backward, New York will lead the way forward."

Christensen said Kavanaugh, who was confirmed by the Senate after a hearing that detailed sexual assault allegations, presents a "threat to reproductive rights at the national level."

“We believe in a New York where no patient is left behind,” Christensen said. “So the No Choice Travel Agency has one goal — to inspire our fellow New Yorkers to take up this fight with us."

A booth inside the pop-up explains the steps people can take to get involved. First, New Yorkers are encouraged to reach out to state senators and Cuomo. The list also features organizations to donate to that are tied to helping women travel for abortions because of health risks.

"New York needs to take care of its people," Christensen said, which is also the last step on the list. "The voting number is 73 percent pro-choice, so we should be voting people into office who will fix this problem and do something with it as early as January of next year."

The No Choice Travel Agency will be located at 230A Mulberry St., and is open through Sunday, Oct. 14.

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