FILE – Abortion rally

A protest leader shouts into a megaphone during a march in favor of abortion rights.

(The Center Square) — New York voters will get a say in whether to amend the state constitution to protect the right to abortion, after lawmakers took the final steps this week to put the issue on the 2024 ballot.

The state Assembly and Senate overwhelmingly voted to approve a resolution Tuesday, first passed last year, that would codify abortion rights in the state constitution, which supporters say would protect access to reproductive health services in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade last June by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The proposed amendment, if ratified by voters, would add "reproductive health care and autonomy" to the list of protected classes to the constitution’s existing Equal Protection Clause, which prohibits discrimination based on a person’s race, color, creed or religion. 

"We will not allow the progress we have made on reproductive freedom to be undone," state Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, said in a statement. "Women have waited far too long to be included in our state constitution, but so have LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, Latinos, and everyone who has faced discrimination based on characteristics that are beyond their control."

Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, welcomed the passage of the legislation, which she says comes in response to the Supreme Court's "horrifying, extreme decision" to overturn federal abortion protections. 

"As other states take extreme measures to stymie progress and roll back reproductive rights, New York will always lead the way to combat discrimination in all forms and protect abortion access," she said in a statement. "New York will never stop fighting for what's right — unafraid and undeterred."

Because the resolution was approved by two successive state Legislatures, lawmakers could have set the proposed constitutional amendment for this November. But they opted instead to put it on the 2024 ballot in a presidential election year when turnout in the largely blue state is expected to be higher. 

To be sure, New York already had strong protections for reproductive health access, but following the Supreme Court’s decision, abortions rights groups began pushing to enshrine those protections in the state constitution. 

Last year, lawmakers approved a measure to shield abortion providers and patients from out-of-state litigation if women from other states, where the procedure is now restricted, travel to New York to get an abortion. 

Abortion opponents and faith leaders strongly oppose the proposal to amend the constitution, which they say would lead to an increase in the number of abortions by making New York a "safe haven" for the procedure.

"New York State should be pouring resources into helping women and families, not promoting abortion through limitless funding, advertisements, and splashy legislation," Kristen Curran, director of government relations for the New York State Catholic Conference, said in a recent statement. 

"Our elected officials should stop promoting abortion as a woman’s best and only choice, and focus instead on true support for women, children, and families," she added.