By Dana DiFilippo
Originally published to New Jersey Monitor on September 1, 2021
After a near-total abortion ban went into effect in Texas Wednesday, alarming abortion rights advocates who fear the Texas law foreshadows a U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Gov. Murphy called on the Legislature to act to protect abortion rights in New Jersey.
But Democratic leaders in the state Senate and Assembly said they will not reconvene before November to consider an abortion access bill that has been stalled for nearly a year.
At a press briefing Murphy said the Texas ban, which took effect after the Supreme Court took no action to block it, creates an urgency for New Jersey legislators to pass statutes to protect abortion rights “sooner rather than later.”
“Reproductive freedom in our state is built on case law, and all of that case law is in turn built on the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade,” Murphy said. “So if the foundation of that series of case laws is impacted, impaired, taken away, the entire reality in our state falls like a house of cards, which is why we need to, as soon as possible, put this protection into statute.”
The stalled bill, the Reproductive Freedom Act (S-3030), would protect and expand access to prenatal care, abortion, birth control, and other reproductive health care in New Jersey by removing financial barriers and non-medical regulations that block access to care.
Two thirds of New Jerseyans support the bill, according to a March poll by the National Institute for Reproductive Health. The state Senate and Assembly both introduced versions of it over 330 days ago, but it still hasn’t been heard in committee.
“Today’s travesty in Texas shows that New Jersey can’t take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to abortion rights and the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Kaitlyn Wojtowicz, vice president of public affairs of Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey. “Access to abortion shouldn’t depend on what state you live in in the first place, but New Jersey must respond to the threats to abortion rights like those in Texas and the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Under Texas’ new restrictions, abortions are banned after six weeks, before many women know they’re pregnant. The law makes no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest and allows citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone who helps a woman get an abortion, including anyone who helps pay for it or drives a woman to a clinic.
New Jersey lawmakers are on an extended recess until after November’s elections, when Murphy and all 120 legislative seats are on the ballot.