NJ Legislature to vote on abortion bill that leaves few happy
TRENTON – Among the 170 bills that could be voted on Monday in the final meeting of the two-year legislative session is a compromise bill on abortion rights that has both sides of the issue unhappy.
The bill, S49/A6260, codifies the right to freedom of reproductive choice, including an abortion. It is already legal under state court rulings but was never written into law, and the impetus to do so now stems from a case pending in the U.S. Supreme Court that could overturn Roe v. Wade.
The bill, however, abandons some provisions that had been included in the more ambitious Reproductive Freedom Act, which has some advocacy groups calling for the bill to be voted down.
Sheila Reynertson, senior policy analyst for New Jersey Policy Perspective, said that by dropping a proposal to require insurance coverage, the bill contains no provisions to ensure everyone has access to an abortion, regardless of their income or immigration status.
She said the message to residents is “that New Jerseyans have the right to choose – but not too easily, not too often, not late in pregnancy and not if cost is an issue.”
Alejandra Sorto, a campaign strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, said unless the bill is amended, the state won’t be addressing access – meaning insurance coverage without out-of-pocket costs such as high co-pays and co-insurance.
“The reality is that barriers, particularly financial barriers, continue to stand in the way for too many people in New Jersey,” Sorto said.
Insurance coverage was dropped from a more expansive version of the bill, in favor of having the insurance commissioner study what insurance policies should cover the procedure. Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, said that’s the only new ground in a bill that codifies current practices.
“There is no new law here, in large part,” Burzichelli said. “I know that doesn’t satisfy people that would prefer that there not be access to abortions at all.”
Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats For Life, said the bill doesn’t seem necessary, contending that even a Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade wouldn’t change things in the Garden State.
“New Jersey can lead the way on a post-Roe world by finding common ground and compromise to ensure that no woman will see abortion as her only choice and no family will abortion because they don’t believe they have the financial means to raise a child,” Day said.
Marie Tasy, executive director of New Jersey Right to Life, said the state already has the nation’s highest abortion rate, double the national average, and that the bill would invite more.
“And to assume that everybody supports radical abortion policy is just not where the people of New Jersey are,” Tasy said.
Christine Flaherty of LIFENET said the bill goes too far, citing polls that show most Americans want at least some restrictions on abortions, even if they’re pro-choice. Flaherty and Tasy said the sentiment was reflected in the November election in which Republican participation surged.
“This bill is out of step with the way most Americans feel about abortion,” Flaherty said.
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at email@example.com.