New York moved one step closer to enshrining abortion rights in its state constitution Tuesday when both chambers of the state legislature passed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) for the second time.
The amendment was first passed by the state legislature during a special session convened by Governor Kathy Hochul last June in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, essentially kicking decisions over the legality of abortion back to individual states.
The resolution to amend the state constitution, which must pass the legislature twice, then be approved by New Yorkers through a statewide ballot referendum, would add additional protected groups under the already established Equal Protection Clause, which affords protections based on race, color, creed or religion. The ERA would additionally bar discrimination based on one’s ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or pregnancy status — including “pregnancy outcomes.”
“The horrifying, extreme decision by the United States Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade was a direct attack on our rights and protections,” Hochul said in a Tuesday statement.
“Here in New York, we will continue to take bold measures to protect the rights of New Yorkers, and I applaud the New York State Legislature for taking another crucial step toward enshrining the Equal Rights Amendment into the state constitution,” she added. “Last year, I was proud to convene an Extraordinary Session of the legislature that led to first passage of this historic amendment, and I am grateful the amendment is on its way to being presented to voters next year.”
The amendment will likely go before New York voters in November 2024.
Along with the ERA, the state Senate also passed a package of bills that would enact a grant program within the Department of Health to improve abortion access across the state; allow pharmacists to dispense self-administered birth control; and strengthen protections for reproductive health care providers. All of the other bills in the package still need to pass the Assembly.
“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,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
“I am also very pleased that this package includes the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program to establish a grant fund to improve access to abortion,” she added. “We will continue to focus on protecting our reproductive rights and enhancing protections for our abortion providers while expanding access to the full gamut of reproductive health services.”