Before the end of this year’s state legislative session, lawmakers took important steps to shore up abortion access in New York. But they left one critical piece of business unfinished.
Now that the Supreme Court has eviscerated Roe v. Wade, New York must pass a bill to create an Equality Amendment that will protect abortion in the state constitution.
Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright – who represents much of the Upper East Side – sponsored legislation that would do just that. But she couldn’t get it across the finish line before the end of session. State lawmakers are heading back to Albany for a special session this week to address gun violence. Assembly Member Seawright and other lawmakers must also pass this crucial bill during that session.
The Supreme Court’s decision to throw out Roe puts millions of people across the country – especially poor women of color – in danger. And while abortion is legal in New York, our state’s constitution does not protect pregnant people if they have an abortion, suffer a miscarriage or stillbirth, or give birth to babies who do not survive. We have also failed to sufficiently protect abortion providers, pregnant people who travel to New York for abortions, and the rights of people who use reproductive technology to expand their families.
We need an equality amendment that bars discrimination based on a person’s race, national origin, disability, and sex — including pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes, sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression.
Lawmakers and the Governor took the first steps to increase funding for abortion providers and protect patients and providers. But as a proud Democrat, I am deeply disappointed that – in a state where Democrats control both houses of the legislature and the governor’s mansion, the birthplace of the women’s rights movement – our party couldn’t come together to pass an equality amendment. These rights are fundamental, and they deserve our state’s strongest protections.
For me, this issue is personal. My husband and I rely on reproductive technology, specifically in vitro fertilization (IVF) to have children. I had to learn to give myself shots, take three to five medications a day for months, and even trust my husband to inject medication into me. This was all followed by the exhausting and dangerous reality of being pregnant and then having a premature child in the NICU. The entire experience made me even more pro-choice than I ever was before. The mental and physical burden of pregnancy is extremely heavy, the end result is a person for whom you are responsible for the rest of your life. Pregnancy and parenthood should never be entered into lightly, it should always be a choice.
Many of the anti-abortion laws being passed across the country take aim at the use of reproduction technology. They purposefully define the start of life at fertilization, sometimes even before. This forces women to choose between undergoing multiple exhausting and painful procedures to make embryos, or the dangers of being pregnant with multiple fetuses at once.
In New York, we like to think that we lead the way on these issues. To live up to that leadership position, we should pass laws that enshrine the rights to abortion and to reproductive technology into law. We should be sure that every safeguard is in place to give people the choice of whether to have a family and the ability to have a family if they want to.
With the Supreme Court’s decision, time is of the essence. In order for the amendment to be added to the state constitution, it must be passed by the legislature twice, and the second time must come after a general election. Then it goes to voters for final approval. That means if the legislature doesn’t pass it this year, an equality amendment can’t go before voters until at least 2026.
Democrats must once again prove we live in a progressive state that cares about the rights of women and pregnant people everywhere. We need an equality amendment now.