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Cuomo proposes constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, left, is introduced

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, left, is introduced by Cecile Richards President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America before delivering his remarks during the Family Planning Advocates' 2017 Day of Action Rally on Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, in Albany. Credit: AP / Hans Pennink

ALBANY — Citing a possible federal rollback of Roe v. Wade, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday that he’ll propose an amendment to the New York state constitution that guarantees abortion rights.

In a fiery address to an abortion-rights convention, the Democrat denounced the possibility of President Donald Trump nominating a U.S. Supreme Court justice that would help “reverse Roe V. Wade” and blasted a “new Washington philosophy” that is “against people who are different than they are.”

He didn’t call Trump by name but vowed that opponents of the president’s policies on abortion, immigration and other issues will “galvanize resistance like this nation has never seen.”

“I want them to know today, if that’s what they do, we’re going to protect Roe v. Wade in the state of New York,” Cuomo told Family Planning Advocates, a pro-abortion-rights group. “I propose today a constitutional amendment to write Roe v. Wade (rights) into the New York state constitution so that nobody can change it. No Supreme Court nominee — because we’re going to protect a woman’s right to choose in the state of New York.”

Cuomo, who has repeatedly criticized Trump’s policies while not citing him personally, went on to blast the president’s executive order temporarily blocking citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S., causing chaos in airports Sunday. Cuomo said the state will “protect the legal rights of everyone who is detained” and that New Yorkers will “protect ourselves against an extreme right-wing agenda.”

Cuomo’s proposal for a constitutional amendment would have to be twice approved by the state Legislature, then placed on the ballot for a statewide referendum — no earlier than 2019.

But before it ever gets that far, such a proposal might face strong opposition in the Republican-controlled State Senate — which in 2014 blocked a bill to enshrine abortion rights into law through regular legislation, not a constitutional amendment. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) didn’t immediately comment.

Cuomo’s proposal also would surely draw opposition from the Catholic Conference (the lobbying arm of the church), the state Conservative Party and New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a lobby group led by evangelical pastors.

Cuomo invoked his three daughters — all college students — in making the argument to protect abortion rights, as well as immigrants’ rights.

“My daughters are frightened and they are not alone,” Cuomo said. “They look around and they wonder what happened to the America that they believed in. But here’s the fact also — we will not lose this nation’s soul and we will not stop the progress of the women’s movement.”

Steps required to amend the NY constitution:

  • Approval of the proposal in the current 2017-18 legislature.
  • Second approval by a legislature convened after the 2018 elections, meaning no earlier than Jan. 1, 2019.
  • Approval in a statewide referendum, which, practically speaking, couldn’t happen before Election Day 2019.


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