Days after the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the overturned Supreme Court decision that ensured the right to an abortion in the U.S., Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York's legislative leaders rallied to reiterate the state's commitment to protect abortion access and to assist out-of-staters seeking care.
Hundreds of people gathered in the state Legislative Office Building in Albany on Wednesday morning to participate in Planned Parenthood's Empire State Act's Day of Action pushing for the year's legislative agenda. Abortion bans became widespread across the nation in wake of the June 2022 SCOTUS decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization that ended the national constitutional right to an abortion — throwing the decision to individual states.
"We've gathered for many, many years and talked about how we can continue to support the women of our state, but now, after that dark, dark day in June of 2022, the world was turned upside down," Hochul said at Wednesday's rally. "For the first time, the march toward progress and further rights in our nation took many steps backward. We've never seen that before. And we didn't just take that — we stood up. We gathered together."
In November, New Yorkers will vote to accept or reject the Equal Rights Amendment — a constitutional amendment to enshrine the right to an abortion in the state Constitution, prohibiting a state ban in the future. The proposed constitutional amendment cleared the Legislature for the second time last year, and would expand protections to the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, people from other countries and others.
"Thankfully... we have great members of the Legislature who always believe that a woman's choice of what to do with her body is always up to her and her doctor," Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. "And I think there's no stronger message we could have than to put that into our Constitution."
Heastie added he's confident voters will support the constitutional amendment that will appear on the back of the ballot.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins recalled one of the main reasons she ran for state Senate in 2004: To ensure the state codified Roe v. Wade to constitutionally protect abortion in New York.
"We will continue to stand on the forefront with you and push," said Stewart-Cousins, who was decked out in various supportive shades of pink. "We stand with the forces of justice, the forces of doing the right thing ... with a coalition of people who understand we are not going backwards."
Reproductive health advocates will also push the Legislature to pass a bill this session to mandate age-appropriate, comprehensive and inclusive sex education for all K-12 students in public districts.
Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado spoke earlier in the rally to show a united front of state leaders who will fight to bolster reproductive health care.
The Legislature voted Monday to advance a legislative package to establish Reproductive Freedom and Equity Grant program to support abortion access statewide and require companies have consent before collecting and selling health care information to third parties.
Lawmakers also passed measures earlier this week to improve access to doula and maternal depression screenings amid an uptick in the national maternal mortality rate — significantly higher for Black women and people of color.
Leaders said the state Legislature will always fight to support abortion access and related care for any person who comes to New York.
"When you leave, do not miss an opportunity to remind people that what's happening in November matters everywhere you look at it — both sides," Stewart-Cousins said to the crowd. "You have to vote for people who understand. You better vote for the right people who understand that we're not going backwards."
Democrats doubled down in 2022 to campaign on protecting abortion rights in efforts to garner wide support for the party from the top of the ticket downward. Abortion will be a critical fixture surrounding this year's presidential and congressional races as voters continue to grapple with concerns about the rising cost of living and public safety — issues typically at the center of Republican campaigns. Each of the 213 members of the state Legislature are up for reelection in November.