Governor Andrew Cuomo told a crowd of cheering Planned Parenthood advocates that he’s proposing a constitutional amendment to put the protections in the Supreme Court decision Roe v Wade into the state’s constitution.
Cuomo, says women’s rights “are under attack” in Washington, with a possible Supreme Court nominee from President Donald Trump that could lead to the repeal of the landmark 1973 abortion rights decision Roe v Wade. The governor says in New York, he’ll try to protect those rights.
“I propose today a constitutional amendment to write Roe v Wade into the state constitution so that nobody can change it,” Cuomo said, to enthusiastic cheers.
Cecile Richards, the President of Planned Parenthood, applauded Cuomo’s proposal, but afterward says more is needed than state by state protection.
“This is so critical,” Richards said. “This is a national right.”
Attempts to write the protections from Roe v Wade into New York’s laws have been tried for a decade, beginning with former Governor Eliot Spitzer in 2007, and continuing with Governor Cuomo. The measure has stalled in the Republican-led State Senate.
Andrea Miller, with the National Institute for Reproductive Health, lobbied for the law for years in her former role with NARAL New York. She says even though New York has a law legalizing abortion that was approved in 1970, three years before the Supreme Court decision, it’s outdated and needs to be modernized. For instance, she says, New York’s law permits abortions after 24 weeks to save the life of the mother but does not provide protections if the women’s health is in danger.
The law is also under the state’s criminal code. Miller says it would make more sense to put it under the state’s health statutes.
“When there’s such threat at the national level, we need clarity,” Miller said. “This belongs in the health code that would allow it to be regulated like every other medical procedure.”
GOP Senators, some of whom are pro-choice, have said in the past that there’s not need to approve abortion rights measures because Roe v Wade was not in jeopardy. Miller says that is now changing, with President Trump expected to pick a conservative candidate to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.
“This is a new day,” said Miller. “We have always firmly believed that there are pro-choice Senators that are not just in the Democratic conference.”
Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins says, after all, the original 1970 abortion rights law was approved with the help of GOP lawmakers, twelve in the State Senate.
“We have to stand up,” Stewart Cousins said.
Senator Stewart Cousins called Cuomo’s proposed constitutional amendment “a very long game”, that requires two consecutively elected state legislatures. It could not go before voters until 2019 at the earliest.
The Senate Republicans had no immediate comment.
Several of the GOP lawmakers who voted for the abortion rights law in 1970 were voted out of office later that year.