The measure was approved alongside a package of bills designed to strengthen abortion rights as the Democratic-led legislature seeks to put a flag on the politically charged issue.
But the change could have a far-reaching effect. Supporters pushed for the change in the wake of last year’s ruling that overturned the groundbreaking abortion case Roe against Wade at the US Supreme Court. However, opponents argue that the amendment’s parameters are too broad and could harm religious institutions.
An Equal Rights Amendment has been proposed in Albany for years, and the final version aims to enshrine protections against discrimination in a document that first came into effect nearly 85 years ago.
Now that the second passage of the amendment has been reached, voters will have the final say on whether it will be added to the constitution in a referendum scheduled for 2024.
“We need to upgrade our 1938 Constitution to show that the world we live in is very different,” said Senator Liz Krueger, one of the amendment’s lead architects, along with Councilmember Rebecca Seawright.
The proposal has been broadly defined, said Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union, as a means to ensure all New Yorkers are protected.
“It sends a message to New York that we are here to stand up for women, for LGBTQ people, for members of ethical minorities, for equality,” Lieberman said.
The amendment was first approved a year ago when abortion and reproductive rights became a major issue for many voters following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the law. Roe against Wade and return the issue to the state governments.
There are questions about how effective the amendment could be if a national abortion ban is enacted.
“This is all about control, right?” said Andrea Miller, the president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health and the NIRH Action Fund. “And the question of whether you will have the ability to make decisions about your sexual and reproductive life is a matter of who gets to make those decisions.”
Support for the amendment gained momentum last year after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark abortion case Roe against Wade. Andrea Miller of the National Institute for Reproductive Health says the amendment would provide additional protection if abortion laws change nationally.
But Republicans, including State Councilman Chris Tague, are skeptical of the amendment and concerned about its effect.
“Those of us who take our faith and religion very seriously are very concerned about lawsuits against the church or against a particular faith or religion,” Tague said.
State Senator George Borrello opposes what he says amounts to codifying abortion in the state constitution.
“Unfortunately, like so many laws, it goes too far,” he said. “It’s very vague, it’s very broad. Ultimately, my biggest concern is that it will codify late-term abortions into the New York State Constitution.”