New York’s Equal Rights Amendment puts abortion on the 2024 ballot

New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins delivering remarks at a Planned Parenthood rally in Albany in May 2022. // Photo by New York Senate via Wikimedia Commons

By Olivia Hillestad

Editor’s note: Part one in a series.

In 1968, Michelle, then a 17-year-old New Yorker, found herself navigating a harrowing journey. Fresh out of high school and juggling work and night school, Michelle faced an unexpected pregnancy. She paid a doctor on the Upper East Side most of the little savings she had and went alone. On the subway ride home, she could feel blood seeping through her jeans and when she got home, she spent the night in bed writhing in pain.

Looking back now she knows she should have gone to the hospital but recalls thinking she would be arrested. In 2013, Michelle told her story to New York Magazine and ended it by saying, “It’s such a horrific thought that anyone should feel that alone again.”

Michelle’s story is one of millions of women who sought abortions before Roe v. Wade legalized abortions across the United States in 1973. Millions of women are once again faced with this reality following the overturning of Roe with the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Since then, abortion rights have been added to the ballot by several states, including California, Vermont, Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio and now New York.

“As women’s rights are under coordinated attack across the country, we need the Equal Rights Amendment to enshrine reproductive rights in our state constitution,” U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, said in an email interview with The Long Island Advocate. “We cannot rely on a governor or legislature that currently supports fundamental rights and freedom. We have to be proactive and codify these rights so that they cannot be rolled back in the future.”

The New York Equal Protection of Law Amendment (EPLA) is on the ballot as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment in the Nov. 5 election this year. The ballot measure would amend Article 1, Section 11 of the New York Constitution.

Proposed amended text of Section 11: Equal Protection of Laws; Discrimination in Civil Rights Prohibited A. No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws of this state or any subdivision thereof. No person shall, because of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, creed, or religion, or sex, including sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes, and reproductive healthcare and autonomy, be subjected to any discrimination in his or her their civil rights by any other person or by any firm, corporation, or institution, or by the state or any agency or subdivision of the state pursuant to law.
B. Nothing in this section shall invalidate or prevent the adoption of any law, regulation, program, or practice that is designed to prevent or dismantle discrimination on the basis of a characteristic listed in this section, nor shall any characteristic listed in this section be interpreted to interfere with, limit, or deny the civil rights of any person based upon any other characteristic identified in this section.

A “yes” vote supports adding language to establish that people cannot be discriminated against based on their “ethnicity, national origin, age and disability” or “sex, including sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes, and reproductive healthcare and autonomy.”

A “no” vote opposes adding this language to the Bill of Rights.

“As is so true of anything that’s in a constitution, you don’t really know how it affects you until suddenly you find yourself in a court case, challenging almost assumed protections,” State Sen. Liz Krueger, a Democrat representing the 28th District in Manhattan, said during an interview with The Long Island Advocate. “If you ask lawyers who do discrimination lawsuits, they’ll tell you, they’re in court all the time challenging discrimination against New Yorkers who never thought they could be discriminated against because they didn’t know they weren’t protected in the Constitution, until suddenly, one day they were facing this and they’re not.”

New York State Sen. Liz Krueger has been an outspoken supporter of the ERA alongside many of her
democratic colleagues. Above, Krueger in January 2020. // Photo by New York Senate via Wikimedia Commons

Currently, the Equal Protection Clause prohibits discrimination based on “race, color, creed, or religion.” Twenty-nine state constitutions contain provisions that guarantee equal rights either with their constitutions or as amendments.

On July 1, 2022, the New York State Senate originally introduced the amendment and passed it by a vote of 49-14. The bill was then passed by the New York Assembly on the same day by a vote of 95-45. In the next legislative session, the amendment was once again passed by the Senate by a vote of 43-20 on Jan. 24, 2023, and by the Assembly on the same day, 97-46.

Supporters of the amendment include New Yorkers for Equal Rights, the Jewish Community Relations Council, the League of Women Voters of New York, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) New York, New York Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Meanwhile those opposed to the amendment include the Coalition to Protect Kids New York, the New York Catholic Conference, State Sen. George Borrello and State Assemblyman Christopher Tague.

” The [EPLA] is overly broad and vague and could create many issues if it is ratified,” Borrello, a Republican from the 57th District in Upstate New York, said in an email interview with The Long Island Advocate.

“The [EPLA] would codify abortion, up until the moment of birth, into the state constitution,” he continued. “Additionally, this amendment is unnecessary in New York State. We have the most liberal abortion laws in the nation, and that has been the case for decades.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights tracks abortion laws following the overturning of Roe v.
Wade on May 3, 2022. // Above, map by Olivia Hillestad/Long Island Advocate // Source: Center for Reproductive Rights

Currently, there are three statewide ballot measures related to abortion that were certified for the ballot in 2024, including the amendment in New York. Florida’s Amendment 4 would “provide a constitutional right to abortion before fetal viability,” and Maryland’s Right to Reproductive Freedom Amendment would amend the Maryland Constitution to establish a right to “reproductive freedom,” according to the Florida Division of Elections and the Maryland State Legislature, respectively.

Four other states have passed ballot measures that establish a state constitutional right to abortion, including Vermont, Michigan and California in 2022 and Ohio in 2023, according to Ballotpedia.

Forty-one states now restrict abortions after a certain point in pregnancy. In New York, the threshold for restriction is currently fetal viability, which, as defined by the Supreme Court in the Roe decision, “is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks.”

Unlike in other states, abortion care is open to non-residents in New York State. Additionally, health insurance, including Medicaid, may cover the cost of an abortion, and abortion services in New York must be confidential, according to

Those who have registered to vote may vote “yes” or “no” to the EPLA in person on Nov. 5, or apply for an early mail-in ballot. Visit for more information, including poll location and registration status.

“The great thing about the U.S. is that we still do have the right to lobby for changes in our laws and in our constitution,” Krueger said. “So, part A, you have to decide you’re going to go vote [on] Nov. 24 … and two, you have to make sure you know, and you tell everyone else you know, you actually have to turn the ballot over once you’ve made those decisions about things like President and Congress and state-level elected officials. You have to turn that ballot over.”

Thoughts? Email Scott.Brinton@edu.