New York legislators across both chambers have now, for a second time, approved a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would add protections for abortion to the state’s guiding document.
Although New York already has abortion generally available to its residents, adding protections for the procedure to the state Constitution would make that availability more difficult to undo. The second approval from state legislators was required in the regular order of business for enacting a state constitutional amendment in New York, and now, voters in the state will decide on the measure in next year’s elections. The proposed amendment enacts its protections through adding to the safeguards for equality. A ban on abortion that goes beyond the kind of standard long set by Roe v. Wade could, of course, disproportionately impact certain groups, impeding their access to healthcare while those whose bodies are different live more freely.
The same amendment proposed in New York also adds other classifications to the equal rights protections already in the state’s Constitution. What would be added includes ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, or sex, a category legally defined to include pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.
State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins connected the legislature’s efforts to rollbacks of abortion access seen elsewhere. “Women’s rights and LGBTQI+ rights are under attack across the country, that is why it is essential that New York continues to lead the way in protecting reproductive health access and championing equality rights,” she said this week. “On what would have been the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Senate Majority is delivering on the promise to pass for the second time the Equal Rights Amendment to ensure that New Yorkers get the opportunity to codify abortion in our state Constitution, and afford equal protection from discrimination to women, LGBTQI+ individuals and many more New Yorkers.”
States like New York that make abortion available and protected can provide a haven, if accessible, to individuals ordinarily residing in other states where the procedure is restricted. As the country grappled with the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, a series of state officials publicly outlined their commitment against cooperating with any investigation in another state into residents there because of receiving reproductive healthcare elsewhere. Voters in several states also approved other amendments to their state constitutions protecting abortion rights during last year’s midterm elections.
For now, litigation in generally GOP-led states against some of the abortion restrictions seen there continues, including with a recently filed lawsuit from faith leaders from several traditions challenging a ban in Missouri. That lawsuit contends with the ban on grounds of religious freedom, with plaintiffs pointing to expressions of conservative Christian and Catholic belief from legislators involved in the original initiatives and the religious beliefs they themselves hold that would provide for greater access to reproductive healthcare including abortion.