New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed a constitutional amendment that would codify Roe v. Wade into the state’s constitution, regardless of what happens to the ruling at the federal level.
“As Washington seeks to limit women’s rights, we seek to protect them,” Cuomo told a crowd of more than 1,500 reproductive rights activists gathered in Albany on Monday for a Planned Parenthood rally.
The measure faces an uphill battle. It will need to be approved by two consecutive legislatures before voters could weigh in, and the state senate has previously blocked efforts to expand New York’s abortion laws. The New York Daily News reports that the earliest the proposed change could appear on a ballot is 2019.
Cuomo’s announcement came one day before President Donald Trump is expected to announce his nominee for the Supreme Court, filling the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Trump has said that he will appoint a “pro-life” justice. During his campaign, he also said that if more seats open up during his presidency, Roe v. Wade would likely be overturned.
Anti-abortion legislators emboldened by that kind of rhetoric have begun to further chip away at abortion access at the state level. Since the start of their new legislative sessions, states like Kentucky hav proposed a 20-week abortion ban, while Arkansas has banned a common abortion procedure for women in their second trimester.
But reproductive rights advocates say they are reassured by the pushback they see coming from other areas of the country, such as New York.
“I would say that there is no question that things feel pretty bleak,” Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, an advocacy group that works to promote and expand reproductive healthcare access, told the told The Huffington Post.
“The damage that’s already been done in just a few short days is deeply troubling,” she continued, “and yet I am inspired and awed by the temerity and the passion we have seen in states even before this election.”
According to the group, advocates and lawmakers advanced 191 bills aimed at expanding reproductive healthcare in 2016, several focused on abortion specifically. Massachusetts, for example, passed a law requiring that confidential information about a patient be sent to them directly, not the insurance policy holder. That means a college student who is still on her parents’ health insurance plan would not have information about her abortion sent to them. Likewise, a victim of domestic violence would not have to worry that private health information is being sent to her partner.
Yet year after year, the number of states considered hostile to abortion continues to grow. In 2000, roughly 30 percent of reproductive-age women a lived in a state the Guttmacher Institute ― a reproductive health research and policy group ― considered hostile to abortion rights. By 2014, nearly 60 percent did.
“The sad fact is that today, whether you have both the right and access to comprehensive health care really does depend on your zip code, your income and your insurance coverage,” Miller said. “It’s not an understatement that for many women, in many states, Roe v. Wade is a hollow promise at best.”