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New York Judge Halts Constitutional Amendment on Abortion Due to Procedural Flaws

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A New York Supreme Court judge has stopped a referendum intended to enshrine broad reproductive rights within the state constitution, highlighting procedural missteps by the state legislature. The referendum, which would have been a significant constitutional revision, was found not in compliance with requisite legal processes, thereby nullifying its placement on the November ballot.

Photo credit: Wesley Tingey

Photo credit: Wesley Tingey


By Catholic Online (California Network)
5/7/2024 (2 months ago)

Published in Marriage & Family

Keywords: New York, abortion, constitutional amendment, Catholic perspective, judicial ruling, procedural error

The proposed amendment, often referred to under the broad banner of ‽Equal Rights," sought to establish a constitutional guarantee against discrimination based on "pregnancy outcomes" and "reproductive health care and autonomy," a term that, while eschewing direct mention of abortion, implicitly encompassed it. This move was widely interpreted as an attempt to fortify access to abortion services within the state†s fundamental legal framework.

Judge Daniel J. Doyle identified that the legislative process employed to advance this amendment was flawed. Crucially, the amendment was submitted to the attorney general for review and simultaneously voted on by the legislature on the same day, a clear contravention of the state's constitutional requirement to wait for a 20-day review period or a response from the attorney generalâ€"whichever comes first. This hasty progression did not permit adequate deliberation or adherence to the procedural safeguards designed to reflect the sovereign will of the people.

In his ruling, Judge Doyle emphasized the necessity of upholding the integrity of the constitutional process, stating, "This court cannot condone the actions taken by the Legislature in derogation of the expressed will of the people."

In response, New York Attorney General Letitia James expressed her intent to appeal the decision. On social media, she articulated her disappointment and framed the amendment as crucial for protecting "fundamental rights" including reproductive freedom. Her stance underscores a broader ideological conflict over abortion rights, which remain legally protected in New York up to the 24th week of pregnancy.

This judicial blockage requires the legislature to recommence the amendment process from scratch if they choose to pursue these changes in the future. Approval must be obtained consecutively in two legislative sessions before a public referendum can be conducted.

Simultaneously, this decision emerges amidst a contentious backdrop where various states are witnessing the push for abortion-related referendums, reflecting a national debate that extends into the moral and ethical realms of life and human dignity.

Adding to the complexity of the legal landscape surrounding life issues, Attorney General James has also initiated legal actions against pro-life pregnancy centers in New York, accusing them of disseminating misleading information about abortion reversal medications. This move further polarizes the discussion around reproductive rights and the support systems available to pregnant women.

The unfolding legal drama in New York not only underscores the procedural rigor demanded in the amendment of state constitutions but also highlights the profound ethical considerations at play in the ongoing discourse over life, dignity, and rights within the community.

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