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Hochul, Democrats mark anniversary of overturned Roe decision by vowing to protect abortion rights

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks Jan. 24, 2024, at a Planned Parenthood lobby day at the State Capitol.
Mike Groll
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Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks Jan. 24, 2024, at a Planned Parenthood lobby day at the State Capitol.

This week marks the 51st anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s abortion rights decision Roe v. Wade, which was overturned two years ago. In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul and Democrats in power in the State Legislature vowed to keep the procedure legal and safe.

Hochul, speaking Wednesday before Planned Parenthood groups gathered at the Capitol, said in New York — which legalized the right to abortion in 1970, three years before Roe — the anniversary of the landmark decision was a reason to celebrate.

She said instead of mourning the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe in 2022, she’s taking steps to strengthen the right to choose the procedure in New York, including offering a ballot amendment in the fall elections.

“And that is why the right to an abortion will be enshrined forever after this November's election, because it's on the ballot,” Hochul said.

The Equal Rights Amendment to the state’s constitution would protect the rights of pregnant people, as well as LGBTQ+ New Yorkers, and people with disabilities. The amendment would also prevent the state from ever implementing a ban on abortion or stopping state Medicaid funding for the procedure.

Democrats in New York hope the ballot amendment can raise voter turnout and be a deciding factor in some competitive seats for Congress that Republicans gained in 2022.

Hochul said she’s urging other blue states to take similar steps and codify abortion rights into their state’s constitutions.

“If they have the courage, individually, 50 states, to enshrine these rights, we can thwart what the Supreme Court is trying to do to our nation,” she said. “We can set them backwards by showing that the power rests with the people, and the power occurs at the ballot box.”

Hochul’s actions are part of a larger strategy among Democrats across the nation.

Both houses of the New York State Legislature passed a number of bills to strengthen abortion rights and improve maternal health care and other reproductive care.

The Senate sponsor of a bill to protect women's reproductive health privacy online, Liz Krueger, said New York has been coordinating with other states led by Democrats to pass the same measures.

“We’re trying to do parallel laws throughout the country,” Krueger said. “Because when we get our country back, and turn things around at the federal level, we would like to have exactly those same laws become the laws of this country. And frankly, we don't want to have 50 different sets of laws when these are national issues.”

On the Senate floor, some Republicans, who are in the minority in the Legislature, quietly voted against the measures that support abortion rights.

But in what was perhaps a nod to the issue’s potency among New York voters, who are predominantly Democratic or independent, no Republican senator spoke about the bills on the floor.

A spokeswoman for the Republican Senate conference did not return a request for comment.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.