After a radical pro-abortion bill made it through both chambers of the New Jersey state legislature and was signed Thursday by Governor Phil Murphy, New Jersey is codifying the “right to reproductive freedom.”
“Right now in New Jersey, our right to reproductive freedom is dependent on a set of legal precedents—but it is not state law,” Murphy and state lieutenant governor Sheila Oliver wrote in an op-ed last month.
The legislation would allow abortion up to the point of birth, with no requirement to notify parents if the pregnant mother is a minor. It has been condemned for allowing late-term abortions, which Murphy and Oliver argue is not extreme because “those who need these critical medical services do so overwhelmingly because there is a threat to their health or there are severe fetal anomalies that would result in suffering and death of the infant.”
While late-term abortions are rare, representing just 1.2 percent of abortions (if you define “late-term” as occurring at or after 21 weeks), this argument is misleading. According to a study from the University of California San Francisco, “Almost half of individuals who obtained an abortion after 20 weeks did not suspect they were pregnant until later in pregnancy, and other barriers to care included lack of information about where to access an abortion, transportation difficulties, lack of insurance coverage and inability to pay for the procedure”—not due to health complications of mother or child. Late-term abortions take place when a baby is increasingly likely to be viable, but as anti-abortion advocates note, the length of gestation shouldn’t change the value of a preborn child’s life.
The bill provides that the state should “advance comprehensive insurance coverage for reproductive care, including . . . services to terminate a pregnancy,” though it does offer an exemption for religious employers. The Department of Banking and Insurance “shall also require carriers to grant, upon request of a religious employer, an exclusion under the contract for the coverage required if the required coverage conflicts with the religious employer’s bona fide religious beliefs and practices.”
Governor Phil Murphy identifies himself as a practicing Catholic, but his actions aren’t lining up with Catholic teaching on abortion.
“Perhaps the legislators who rushed through this Act in the waning moments of their terms did not want citizens to understand fully its inhuman and lethal consequences,” Catholic bishops of New Jersey said in a statement.
“We must do better,” the bishops’ statement continued. “We urge all Catholics and people of good will to actively participate in breaking down the economic, employment, social, racial, and emotional barriers that lead mothers into thinking abortion is a better option than life.” The bishops also emphasize their commitment to continue bringing awareness to “the abundant resources and programs we offer that include life-affirming health and prenatal care, emotional support, assistance in bearing and raising her child, and basic needs such as housing, food, and clothing to pregnant mothers seeking or considering alternatives to abortion.”
New Jersey, as Murphy said, already has legal precedent allowing abortions, and it has the highest per capita abortion rate of any state in the United States. But supporters of the bill, such as sponsor and former state legislator Loretta Weinberg, argue that its passage is “critical” with “a woman’s right to choose under Roe v. Wade under attack in the U.S. Supreme Court.”
As the Supreme Court prepares to rule on the abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization later this year, we can expect to see more pro-abortion states like New Jersey scrambling to codify abortion access, while other states are using the opportunity to protect each child’s right to life.