Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey have rallied around a bill that would codify the right to abortion into state law should the Supreme Court overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
On Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy, D-N.J., announced the Reproductive Freedom Act, which his office describes as “proactive legislation that will help protect and expand New Jerseyans’ ability to receive reproductive health care, such as birth control, and pregnancy-related care, including abortion.” According to PIX 11, the bill will be introduced by State Sen. Loretta Weinberg in the Senate and Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle in the General Assembly. Both women are Democrats.
The introduction of New Jersey’s Reproductive Freedom Act comes as pro-abortion politicians are concerned that Republican-appointed justices will hold a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court following the likely confirmation of President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, possibly putting the longstanding precedent of Roe in jeopardy.
“For the first time in decades, it seems possible that the Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade,” Murphy said.
“The Reproductive Freedom Act will remove barriers to reproductive health, as well as expand access to contraception while reaffirming choice. Together, we stand unwavering in our commitment to work towards reproductive freedom for all New Jerseyans.”
The bill will require insurance companies to cover abortions and contraception at no out-of-pocket cost to patients. With the Democrats controlling both the New Jersey Senate and the General Assembly, the Reproductive Freedom Act has a good chance of becoming law.
Sarah Fajardo, policy director of ACLU New Jersey, praised the “landmark legislation,” which “expands and protects access to reproductive health care for all New Jerseyans regardless of income level, immigration status, or gender identity.” Fajardo called on the New Jersey legislature to “stand firm in the values of freedom and equity, and to act on urgent calls to confront systemic racial injustices by passing the Reproductive Freedom Act.”
In a Friday afternoon statement, New Jersey Right to Life slammed the “radical abortion bill” as a “raw abuse of power that will oppress the will of NJ voters.”
“Contrary to the claims of those who make a profit off the bodies of women and the killing of innocent children, abortion is not a safe procedure and laws like this will surely place more women’s lives in danger.”
The passage of the Reproductive Freedom Act would reinforce the findings of a 1982 New Jersey Supreme Court decision, which affirmed a “fundamental right of a woman to control her body and destiny.” For this reason, the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights lists New Jersey as one of 14 states where abortion rights would be “protected” if Roe was “weakened or overturned.”
If the Reproductive Freedom Act was enacted, New Jersey would likely join seven other states that, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, offer “expanded access” to abortion. The others are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
Should the Reproductive Freedom Act become law, New Jersey would become the 14th state to enact legislation that would protect the right to abortion in the hypothetical absence of Roe in the future. According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, the other states that have passed similar legislation are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
Public opinion polling indicates strong support for preserving the right to abortion in the Garden State. According to Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Survey, a majority of New Jerseyans (61%) believe that abortion should be legal in some or all cases, compared to 35% who believe that the procedure should be illegal in all or most cases.