New York is well known as “the abortion capital of America.” But there never seems to be enough for pro-abortion ideologues.
The situation in New York is already grim enough.
New York has almost 75,000 abortions every year. About one-quarter of all pregnancies end in abortion statewide, and the proportion is even worse in parts of New York City. Everyone in New York has easy access to abortion clinics throughout the state. The law mandates that the procedure be covered in full by Medicaid and by private insurance plans, with no co-pay.
In 2019 the NY legislature passed a radical bill (the so-called “Reproductive Health Act”) that removed all statutory limits on abortion. You can obtain an abortion up to the moment of birth, and non-doctors can perform the surgery. Actually, the abortion can even be completed after the baby is born, since the bill eliminated a humane requirement that a second doctor be present during a late-term abortion to care for the child if she is born accidentally.
In other words, our New York elected officials are all-in on abortion. “Public service” announcements by the governor assure New Yorkers that they will continue to be able to “access abortion care.” The governor has already handed out $10 million to abortion clinics, supposedly for security, with another $15 million to follow. She has declared New York to be a “safe haven” for abortion, and has offered to pay for out-of-staters who want to come to New York.
Not to be outdone, the attorney general has asked Google to tweak its algorithm to suppress any search results that show pro-life pregnancy centers. And the legislature passed a law this year directing the Health Department to start a vindictive “study” of pregnancy centers, which is designed to harass and burden them with voluminous document requests.
But even all that isn’t enough. Progressives have put forward a proposed amendment to the state constitution called the “Equality Amendment.” Who can be against equality? Let’s look beyond its idealistic name.
In reality, the goal is to give maximum constitutional protection to abortion. It does that by adding “sex including pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes” to the list of specially-protected categories in the civil rights guarantee of the New York state constitution. In a special session called after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the NY legislature passed the amendment by wide margins and with no debate.
What the NY state amendment means
It’s important to understand the legal effect of the amendment. By adding it to the constitution, abortion would be treated as a “fundamental right.” Any right in that category is close to impossible to regulate or restrict. Any attempt to do so is evaluated by the courts under the most stringent standard, called “strict scrutiny.” One Supreme Court justice once called that test “strict in name, fatal in fact.” The amendment would make it virtually impossible to pass any laws granting protection to unborn children.
Of course, it’s pretty much inconceivable at the present time that New York—as deep “blue” a state as they come—will suddenly turn pro-life and start to enact laws that protect unborn children. But again, it’s never enough for the abortion ideologues.
It’s also crucial to understand that this amendment applies not just to the government, but “any entity acting in concert with or on behalf of the government.” This would clearly reach any organization that operates under a government contract or with a government license—like religious hospitals, charitable agencies, and schools.
In effect, the amendment is not only a license to kill babies but to kill religious organizations. Any policy or decision that is unfavorable to abortion could result in a civil rights lawsuit.
Eliminating anti-abortion advocates
The potential implications are vast and disastrous. Religious charities would have to abandon the vulnerable people they serve because their beliefs about the dignity of every human life is disfavored by our government. Churches could lose their tax-exempt status for the crime of dissenting from pro-abortion dogma. Ruinous lawsuits may be filed against pro-life pregnancy centers that refuse to refer for abortions. And it would threaten the religious freedom of thousands of individuals whose faith requires them to reject any cooperation with intrinsically evil practices like abortion.
There are some federal and state conscience protection statutes that cover health agencies and professionals. But they are limited in reach and none apply to religious schools or social service agencies, or to any secular organization. Neither the state nor federal constitutions offers sufficient religious freedom protections for those who object to abortion. The U.S. Supreme Court has construed the federal Free Exercise Clause in such narrow terms that it is very difficult to use it as a defense against a law of general applicability. Our State Court of Appeals has basically erased the Free Exercise Clause of the NY state constitution.
Ultimately, there would be “equal rights” for abortion, but not for those who abhor it.
How does the Equality Amendment get added to the NY state constitution?
Fortunately, the Equality Amendment still has a long way to go before becoming part of our constitution. It has to be passed again by the legislature next year, and then it would go on the ballot for the people to cast the deciding vote. So we have time to educate people about the extremism of this proposal.
Everyone should be in favor of banning unjust discrimination and treating every person as entitled to protection and dignity simply for being human. But this “Equality Amendment” treats an entire class of human beings as non-persons, disposable at will as if they were mere property. That is a radical betrayal of basic morality, and the principles on which our state and nation were founded.