On November 7th, New Yorkers will vote for or against a state constitutional convention, which would bypass our legislative process and create a pathway for unknown delegates to rewrite our Constitution. In these perilous times, with DC extremists bent on rolling back our access to reproductive health care, this might seem like a creative pathway to protect our health care and rights – when in fact, it’s the exact opposite.
It’s important to acknowledge the gamble inherent in a constitutional convention: rather than safeguard our reproductive rights and access to health care, New Yorkers could easily lose more than we gain. Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts is opposed to a constitutional convention and firmly believes the legislative and constitutional amendment process is the safest and most inclusive way to strengthen our laws and protect all New Yorkers, especially those who are already underrepresented.
While New York State has a reputation as a progressive leader harking back to our days as a bedrock of suffrage and powerhouse of the women’s rights movement, there are no rules or guarantees when it comes a constitutional convention - there is no surety that our issues would be part of the final platform. Our priorities could easily be relegated to a bargaining chip or compromised in the adoption of other key progressive issues.
A convention is a lengthy process that allows the politicians and lobbyists with the deepest pockets to have the loudest voice when it comes to selecting issues and delegates. Our state could easily lose hard-won gains that we all depend on, including critical conservation measures, workplace protections, and anti-discriminatory and civil rights safeguards.
Of course, opposing a constitutional convention does not mean closing our eyes to the fight to pass legislation fundamental to protecting our ability to control our bodies and make decisions about our health care that are right for us -- free from government interference. That work continues. While we may be frustrated as important protections stall in the New York State Senate, there is still opportunity to gain reproductive rights and access through a system that has checks and balances, unlike a constitutional convention.
Perhaps because this year has been so deeply disappointing, some are viewing this once-every-twenty-years’ opportunity as a sure thing rather than a costly long shot funded by New York State taxpayers and influenced by politicians and lobbyists. Here’s a reminder – the last time New Yorkers bet on a constitutional convention was 1967, and New Yorkers rejected all the proposed changes put forward at the taxpayers’ expense.
There are a few certainties with a constitutional convention. All our rights are vulnerable, and there are no guarantees when it comes electing delegates. You can be sure that lawmakers, including those who do not champion our cause, would run and win. We’ve seen what special interests with unlimited spending power can do and a constitutional convention lays out the welcome mat to anyone with cash and an agenda.
The real key to securing access to reproductive health care and ensuring our reproductive rights is be civically engaged by voting in state and local elections and running for office, we cannot be bystanders in the democratic process. Abandoning our legislative options for a constitutional convention threatens to push vulnerable New Yorkers further away from the decision-making process and put our current gains at risk. Vote no on Prop 1 this November.