Abortion rights take stronger focus in New Jersey governor’s race
TRENTON — The governor’s race in New Jersey is feeling the ripple effects of a drastic new law in Texas which bans most abortions.
The U.S. Supreme Court this month refused to block the law, which makes abortions illegal after six weeks of pregnancy — within the same timeframe when many pregnancies are first confirmed.
"I do not support the new law in Texas and if you take a look at my public record, I've never been an advocate for overturning Roe v. Wade," Republican candidate for governor, Jack Ciattarelli, said during a campaign stop on Wednesday in Bergen County’s New Milford, as reported by News 12.
Ciattarelli, a former state Assemblyman, has taken a firm stance against abortions after 20-weeks and has vowed to veto the proposed New Jersey Reproduction Freedom Act, which he calls “radical” because of how it expands abortion access.
“The decision about whether and when to become a parent is one of the most important life decisions we make. We need to trust all people who can become pregnant to make decisions about their own health and lives,” Murphy previously said in a written statement supporting the act in October 2020.
When asked in May about President Donald Trump’s one term in office, Ciattarelli said during a virtual town hall streamed online that “certainly his greatest legacy was the appointment of all the conservative judges to the federal bench, including the Supreme Court.”
Another reproductive rights issue in the state has been funding for women’s health clinics.
In 2010, Republican Gov. Chris Christie cut $7.5 million from the state budget for family planning clinic funding, and then vetoed repeated efforts to restore it.
The funding was restored in 2018 by Murphy and state lawmakers, including several Republicans who voted in favor of the funds.
Ciattarelli has said that he doesn’t “believe tax dollars should be used for abortions or for agencies that necessarily advocate for abortions,” in a January interview with the New Jersey Globe.
Meanwhile, New Jersey has joined a multi-state court filing in support of a federal lawsuit that says the Texas law is unconstitutional, Acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck announced on Wednesday.
In banning all abortions past six weeks, the Texas law makes no exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape, sexual abuse, incest or for those involving a “fetal defect incompatible with life after birth.”
“New Jersey supports reproductive freedom and eliminating barriers to pregnancy-related care, including abortion,” Bruck said in a written statement, alongside the "friend of the court" brief filed by 23 states and Washington D.C.
“But this case is about more than abortion rights. Allowing private bounty hunters to sue anyone who helps someone exercise their rights is an affront to the Constitution and an attack on all of our rights," he continued.
While the high court refused to block Texas’s implementation of the law, there has not yet been a ruling on its constitutionality.
In 2016 alone, 91% of abortions done in the U.S. — and 85.4% of abortions in New Jersey — happened within 13 weeks of gestation, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In criticizing the state's proposed Reproductive Freedom Act, Ciattarelli said that to "authorize non-licensed physicians to perform abortions" was also radical.
The same phrase has been used by religious groups who have rallied against the idea of expanded access to legal abortions.
It's a reference to expanding the medical personnel who are authorized to perform such procedures, as the State Board of Medical Examiners already has unanimously supported.
Advanced practice nurses, physician assistants, certified nurse midwives and certified midwives already have been permitted to administer medication-based termination of pregnancy in New Jersey.
The proposed changes posted in January include allowing those same medical professionals, in addition to doctors, to provide "aspiration" abortion care.