ALBANY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to amend the state constitution to protect abortion rights in New York if a conservative Supreme Court curtails them nationally.
Cuomo on Monday proposed installing Roe v. Wade rights into the state constitution, a measure intended to fortify a woman's ability to obtain an abortion in New York.
The Democratic governor unveiled his proposal at a rally near the state Capitol hosted by Family Planning Advocates, the lobbying arm of Planned Parenthood in New York.
His remarks came a day before President Donald Trump is scheduled to unveil his pick for a vacant seat on the Supreme Court, a decision pro-choice groups fear could precede the court re-considering Roe v. Wade.
"As they threaten this nation with a potential Supreme Court nomination that will reverse Roe v. Wade, I want them to know today: If that's what they do, we're going to protect Roe v. Wade in the state of New York," Cuomo said.
Pro-choice groups have for years pushed bills to bolster the state's abortion laws to match current federal rights granted under the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
Those efforts have been blocked largely by Senate Republicans, who control a slim majority in the Legislature's upper chamber.
Cuomo's proposal Monday goes a step further by changing the state constitution, a move that would be much harder to overturn.
But approving a constitutional amendment is no easy lift in New York: Absent a constitutional convention, it requires approval from consecutively elected sessions of the Legislature, as well as a public referendum. The earliest that could happen is 2019.
New York voters will vote this year on whether to approve a constitutional convention, which would be a multi-year process to rewrite the state's constitution.
A spokesman for Senate Republicans did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday afternoon.
Along with Senate Republicans, Cuomo's proposal is likely to be opposed by various pro-life groups, including the Catholic Church and New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedom, a Spencerport-based evangelical group that is active at the state Capitol.
Cheryl Calire is the Director of Pro-Life Activities for the Buffalo Diocese.
She was one of the four-hundred Western New Yorkers who went to Washington for Friday's March for Life.
"The march was actually very exhilarating this year. Primarily because it was the first time that we had a sitting administration Vice President Pence was there," said Calire.
In anticipation of the nation's highest court potentially revisiting Roe v. Wade, on Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a state constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights.
"There really haven't been amendments in my lifetime that I can think of as to our state constitution," says attorney Paul Cambria.
Attorney and legal analyst Paul Cambria has argued several cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
"I handled a case in our highest court which established the fact that under our state constitution, we can grant citizens greater rights and protections than are granted under our federal constitution. Not less, but greater. So here, if for example a Supreme Court pick by Trump decides to side with the group that wants to get rid of Roe versus Wade, our constitution could protect that privacy interest and protect abortion rights here," says Cambria.
Cambria says if there is a movement to overturn Roe v. Wade, that process would take several years.
Cuomo's proposal was applauded by Planned Parenthood, which said it would provide a safeguard against possible federal action.
"With a constitutional amendment, that right will be guaranteed by the state constitution, so that it cannot be stripped away, no matter what happens at the federal level.