By Nikita Biryukov
Originally published to New Jersey Globe on April 28, 2021
Gov. Phil Murphy said his administration is working to advance a bill codifying abortion protections in the face of a conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court that stalled after President Joe Biden entered the White House.
Announced last October, the Reproductive Freedom Act has now sat for more than six months without seeing so much as a committee hearing.
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), its prime sponsor, in March told the New Jersey Globe the measure had stalled after “pushback from some members in both houses who don’t think we really have to do this now.”
Murphy isn’t among the naysayers.
“We need to do it preemptively so we’re not being dragged by some decision not yet taken by the U.S. Supreme Court,” he said. “I think it’s imperative. We’re working it. We’re working it with legislators, with advocates.”
But the bill will likely languish despite the governor’s urging. A senior Senate source on Wednesday told the New Jersey Globe the proposal would likely not move until the lame duck session, if it moves at all.
The state’s abortion protections stem from a 1982 New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that found restrictions on the procedure infringed on women’s right to control their bodies, but that opinion acknowledged abortion as an issue “assumed a new dimension” after Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide.
The bill’s backers fear a 6-3 conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court could imperil the state protections along with the federal ones.
“The general fact of the matter is it’s not moving at the pace it needs to move, and I think people are in fact lulled a little bit asleep on this one at the moment and they should not be,” Murphy said. “This is needed, and it’s needed right now.”