In a pair of afternoon votes, the state Senate and Assembly are expected to pass an expansion of the Equal Protection Amendment to the state constitution. That would pave the way for the amendment to be put to voters in a referendum in 2024.
While the amendment would not explicitly preserve a woman’s right to abortion, supporters say it would in practice protect reproductive rights.
“Women’s and LGBTQI+ rights are under attack across the country, which is why it is essential that New York continues to lead the way in protecting access to reproductive health and championing equality rights,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat. . in a statement before the vote.
The legislature first approved the amendment in a special session last summer after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. It was the first step in the state’s amendment process, which requires lawmakers to pass a resolution twice to send it to voters. Governor Kathy Hochul doesn’t have to sign the bill into law to become law, but she has said she supports it.
The New York Constitution currently prohibits discrimination based on “race, color, creed, or religion”. The amendment would expand that list to include ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes, and “reproductive health care and autonomy.”
Currently, New York law allows abortions up to the 24th week of pregnancy, and it seems unlikely that this will change any time soon. It also legalized same-sex marriage in 2011, four years before the U.S. Supreme Court declared people nationwide to have that right.
But lawmakers said they felt compelled to pass constitutional amendments to ensure future protections for abortion rights if the political wind turned.
“Rest assured, the majority of the Assembly will never stop fighting to make sure our state’s reproductive protections are rock solid,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said during a morning session at the Capitol.
Maysoon Khan serves on the Corps for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercover issues. Follow Maysoon Khan on Twitter.