State lawmakers are expected to advance an amendment to New York's constitution that is meant to enshrine abortion rights following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Gov. Kathy Hochul's office early Friday morning announced the amendment, which had stalled in the Legislature for more than a month, will be added to an extraordinary session for lawmakers, called previously to shore up the state's concealed carry laws.
Hochul's office in the early morning hours also released the details of the bill to tighten concealed carry laws for guns after the Supreme Court last week also overturned the state's 110-year-old law that placed restrictions on firearms in public.
"Recent Supreme Court rulings have threatened the rights of New Yorkers to make decisions about their own bodies and our right to protect New Yorkers from gun violence, but we refuse to stand idly by, and we must act," Hochul said. "I thank Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Heastie for working through the day and night on these bold actions in response to these reckless Supreme Court decisions. We will enact legislation to strengthen our laws on concealed carry weapons, and building on our nation-leading protections for abortion patients and providers, New York State will take an unprecedented step toward enshrining the fundamental right to abortion access into our State Constitution. Let me be clear: We will do everything in our power to protect New Yorkers."
The specifics of the amendment were not immediately known on Friday morning. Lawmakers had been debating whether to introduce a broad equality amendment or a more narrow provision to enshrine abortion rights.
State lawmakers in 2019 previously approved the Reproductive Health Act, a measure that allows for abortions after 24 weeks if a woman's life is in danger or if the fetus is not viable. It also allows licensed or certified health care practitioners to perform the procedure.
The Legislature and Hochul in June agreed to measures that are meant to strengthen legal protections for women who travel to New York to receive abortion services as well as the providers themselves.
But proponents of abortion rights had agreed the amendment was needed to send the rest of the country a message as other states move to put restrictions in place.
The amendment is also being called for in the middle of an election year for the governor, and Hochul has been touting her support for it during the campaign.
Opponents of abortion criticized the amendment. Jason McGuire, the executive director of the conservative New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, said in a Twitter post the amendment would "pit conscience protections for Pro Life doctors against a woman seeking a late-term abortion."
A constitutional amendment requires the approval of two separately elected sessions of the Legislature. So, if the amendment is approved this year, lawmakers would also have to give it another round of approval next year. It would then go to voters as a ballot referendum.
Supporters want the amendment on the ballot in 2024.
Lawmakers on Friday will also have the specifics of the gun legislation to potentially vote on later in the day. A bill released by Hochul's office shows New York is set to limit where guns can be carried, restricting firearm possession on mass transit, parks, educational institutions and businesses, though business owners can affirmatively tell customers guns are welcome in the establishment.
There will also be new requirements for concealed carry permits, with license renewals every three years and new training stipulations.
Those with concealed carry licenses will be subject to criminal background and mental health checks. The State Police will also keep sales records of ammunition and the safe storage of guns will be required in vehicles.
Gun rights advocates have criticized the push to tighten concealed carry laws, arguing they would do little to keep New Yorkers safe, and punish only law-abiding gun owners.