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New York assembly passes constitutional amendment to enshrine abortion rights

New York passes bill to expand discrimination protections that will enshrine the right to abortion. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
New York passes bill to expand discrimination protections that will enshrine the right to abortion. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 25 (UPI) -- New York state legislators have passed a constitutional amendment to expand protections from discrimination that will enshrine the right to abortion.

The New York state legislature passed the Equal Rights Amendment on Tuesday, putting it on the ballot for 2024 when voters will decide its future.

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The New York Constitution already protects against racial and religious discrimination, but the bill passed Tuesday seeks to expand those protections to New Yorkers based on other demographics, such as age, ethnicity, disability or sex, including pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

"As other states take measures to stymie progress and roll back reproductive rights, New York will always lead the way to combat discrimination in all forms and protect abortion access," New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement after the bill's passing. "New York will never stop fighting for what's right -- unafraid and undeterred."

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The Democratic-led New York state legislature first passed the measure last year, but state laws say that an constitutional amendment must be approved by two different legislative sessions before going on a ballot as a referendum for public approval.

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The bill was seen as a necessity amid Republican efforts to prohibit abortion at the state level and after the Supreme Court last summer overturned Roe vs. Wade, repealing federal protections for abortion and returning the legality of the controversial medical practice to the states.

New York legislators passed the measure days after what would have been the 50th anniversary of that landmark 1973 decision.

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"We have passed legislation to protect the right to access contraceptives and abortion, protections for LGBTQ New Yorkers, preventing racial discrimination in voting laws and working to remove racial disparities within our criminal justice system. But we know these fights are not finished," New York state assembly speaker Carl Heastie said in a statement Tuesday.

"Across this country, at all levels of government, we have seen a worrying trend in rolling back and limiting the rights of Americans. We will not all that to stand in New York."

The bill's passing on Tuesday was celebrated by a swath of civil rights advocates who said it will offer protection to millions of New Yorkers as conservatives seek to whittle them away.

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"With the federal constitutional right to abortion granted by Roe vs Wade 50 years ago stolen from us last June, New York has taken critical steps to create a State Constitution worthy of the 21st century that protects us all!" Georgana Hanson, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Empires States Acts, said in a statement.

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Desma Holcomb, advisor of Equality New York's bodily autonomy and reproductive justice commission, said they will work to ensure they win the referendum next year.

"Equality New York is thrilled that this inclusive NYS Equal Rights Amendment is on the path to protect the human rights and reproductive rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender non-conforming and non-binary New Yorkers," Holcomb said.

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