April 21, 2021
New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney recently made the claim that “a lot of what’s in Roe v. Wade is already in statute in the state of New Jersey right now.” Unfortunately, this is a common misconception. Though the statewide case law is clear and settled that New Jerseyans have the right to abortion, state statute has not been updated to reflect this reality. Furthermore, there are New Jerseyans who lack access to time-sensitive, essential reproductive care right now, not because they lack the right, but because they lack access. That is why we continue to call on the legislative leadership to advance the Reproductive Freedom Act (S3030/A4848) as soon as possible.
The Reproductive Freedom Act, a bill introduced in the legislature in October 2020, would protect and expand access to time-sensitive, essential reproductive health care, including abortion. Adding a state statute codifying and further protecting reproductive rights will ensure that people can make personal health care decisions for themselves without interruption or interference.
Despite the Biden-Harris administration’s support of reproductive rights, the Supreme Court now has a very clear anti-abortion extremist majority. Roe v. Wade remains under imminent threat; and bad faith attacks from anti-abortion extremists, in New Jersey and across the country, could create confusion and harmful delays in medical care, even in our state. Meanwhile, politicians in other states are racing to push reproductive health care further out of reach — especially among those for whom reproductive health services and abortion care may indeed be legal under Roe, but not anywhere near accessible. And as the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted, the systemic racism and inequality in our medical system means that lack of access has the worst consequences for Black, Latinx, Indigenous, AAPI, and LGBTQ communities, as well as communities with low income, which often intersect.
New Jerseyans understand the urgency of protecting and expanding access to legal abortion. According to a groundbreaking New Jersey-specific survey from Change Research and the National Institute of Reproductive Health released this month, “72% of New Jerseyans see the restrictions being passed in other states that push reproductive health care out of reach and agree that it’s time for New Jersey to take action with the Reproductive Freedom Act to protect access to care.” The survey additionally showed that “3 in 5 New Jersey voters say they are ‘very concerned’ or ‘somewhat concerned’ that the Supreme Court might overturn or significantly weaken Roe v. Wade in the future.” So why isn’t our New Jersey legislative leadership acting on these concerns?
Senate President Sweeney also erroneously stated that much of the Reproductive Freedom Act was already contained in state statute, which unfortunately, is just not true. Everyone in New Jersey should be able to receive the care they need and plan their families without barriers, fears, or interference from others. In addition to explicitly ensuring New Jerseyans have the right to make their own personal reproductive health care decisions, the Reproductive Freedom Act will expand access by breaking down barriers people currently face.
The Reproductive Freedom Act removes logistical barriers by updating and repealing medically unnecessary, harmful regulations that regulate abortion differently from any other medical procedure and restrict access to care. It will update New Jersey’s regulations to meet current medical best practices, allowing highly qualified and experienced medical professionals to perform abortions, expanding availability.
The Reproductive Freedom Act will address financial barriers, by requiring that private insurers cover this essential health care without out-of-pocket expenses, and by expanding programs that cover those who are unable to access reproductive care otherwise. Access to reproductive care shouldn’t depend on income, immigration status, or zip code. It’s the right thing to do, and it strengthens our communities. In fact, 66 percent of New Jersey voters agree with this sentiment.
New Jersey has made strides towards protecting reproductive health, and this bill will be another step in the right direction. We must pass the Reproductive Freedom Act to protect and expand access to reproductive health care in New Jersey today. State legislative leaders must act now, not if — or more likely when — abortion access becomes even further eroded. Now is not the time to rest on our laurels; now is the time to pass the Reproductive Freedom Act.
Helen Archontou, YWCA NNJ
Regina Branca, Carol Loscalzo, Unitarian Society of Ridgewood's Reproductive Justice Team
Navneet Bhalla, Manavi
Sarah Blaine, JD, New Jersey Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Julie Blumenfeld, New Jersey Affiliate of the American College of Nurse Midwives.
Leslie Bockol, Mara Novak, NJ 11th For Change
Pamela Brug, MD, New Jersey Black Women Physician Association
Judy Buckman, Anita Mancini, South Jersey NOW, Alice Paul Chapter
Erin Chung, Women for Progress
Cresandra Corbin, MD, Rachel Rosenberg, MD, Reproductive Health Access Project - New Jersey Chapter
Jada Grisson, Sara Spagnoletti, New Jersey Abortion Access Fund
Christine Soyong Harley, SIECUS
Debra Hauser, Advocates for Youth
Brittany Holom-Trundy, New Jersey Policy Perspective
Nadia Hussain, MomsRising
Uyen "Winn" Khuong, ATNJ Action Together New Jersey
Carol Loscalzo, Nicole Schultz, Unitarian Universalist FaithAction New Jersey, Reproductive Justice Task Force
Jamie L. Manson, Catholics for Choice
Marcia Marley, BlueWave NJ
Anjali Mehrotra, National Organization for Women of New Jersey
Andrea Miller, National Institute for Reproductive Health
Nicole Morella, NJ Coalition to End Domestic Violence
Nedia Morsy, Make the Road New Jersey, Youth Power Project
MJ O’Leary, Chair, Women and Family Issues Committee, League of Women Voters of New Jersey
Phoebe Pollinger, National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County Section
Bari-Lynne Schwarz, National Council of Jewish Women, Bergen County Section
Lisa Shelby, MPH, HiTOPS, Inc.
Roxanne Sutocky, Cherry Hill Women’s Center
Noelle Tutunjian, Stanton Strong
Penny M. Venetis, Director, International Human Rights Clinic, Rutgers Law School
Loretta Winters, Gloucester County NAACP
Jill Wodnick, Speaking of Birth
Kaitlyn Wojtowicz, Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey