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N.J. lawmakers, Murphy push to expand abortion access

Originally published to on October 4, 2020

After the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the pledges of President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans to appoint a conservative replacement to the U.S. Supreme Court, doubts have escalated about the future of the landmark case, Roe v. Wade, and abortion access in America.

Now, New Jersey state lawmakers are pledging to introduce legislation that would enshrine the right to abortion and other reproductive health care for Garden State residents. On Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, announced he supports that proposal, which will be dubbed the Reproductive Freedom Act.

“As access to health care and the right to choose are under attack at the federal level, we will support, defend, and protect reproductive rights here in New Jersey,” 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.”

According to Murphy’s announcement, the bill will explicitly state that all New Jerseyans have the right to make their own decisions when in comes to abortion, birth control and pregnancy-related care. It will also require private insurance companies to cover birth control and abortion with no out-of-pocket costs.

“New Jersey has always stood up for a woman’s right to choose,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen. “Unfortunately, for too many New Jerseyans, those legal rights do not translate into access, especially for young people, communities of color, low-income communities, the LGBTQIA community and undocumented individuals. At a time where the fundamental right to access reproductive health care is being challenged across the country, I am proud that New Jersey is taking bold action to safeguard these rights and expand access for all.”

State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, echoed Vainieri Huttle’s point.

“This legislation delivers on the promise of equitable access to reproductive healthcare for all New Jersey residents,” Weinberg said.

First Lady Tammy Murphy, who has also worked to reduce infant and maternal mortality, said this is another step in a long effort to improve health care options for all women.

“As much as today is a declaration of our unyielding commitment to the women of our state, we also know it is another day in our ongoing fight to protect the progress we have made. And, no matter the obstacles, we will only move forward,” the First Lady said.

Kaitlyn Wojtowicz, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey, said such legislation is more important now than ever, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to lay bare the unequal access to health care seen across the state.

“The current health crisis has reinforced just how important it is to make sure everyone can get the care they need, including reproductive health care, no matter what,” Wojtowicz said.

New Jersey Right to Life quickly announced its opposition to the proposal. The group argues the proposal is a political stunt to help Murphy’s reelection chances next year.

“That is surely why the majority party and governor will not seek voter approval on this type of measure, but instead seek to act in an autocratic manner to oppress the will of the people,” Marie Tasy, the group’s executive director, said in a statement.

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