TEANECK – Abortion is now legal under state law in New Jersey, not just through court rulings.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed the law Thursday, contending that it’s necessary now because of a pending court case out of Mississippi that could limit or overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1972 decision by the Supreme Court that legalized abortion.

“The United States Supreme Court is preparing to take a wrecking ball to its own precedent, Roe v. Wade, and that would also demolish our case-law based foundation here in New Jersey,” Murphy said.

That argument was a familiar one also voiced as the Legislature approved the bill Monday. But Murphy also addressed the concerns of abortion opponents and explained how, as a Catholic, he supports the law and abortion rights more generally.

“To those on the other side of this issue – and there are many overwhelmingly well-intentioned people, many of whom by the way have reached out to me directly – I hope that we can come together in the greater calling of our faiths to make parenthood an easier, safer and healthier choice for anyone or any family in search of support,” Murphy said. “We can each hold our own personal, deeply felt views and still respect each individual’s ability to make their own decisions.

"I hope that we can come together in the greater calling of our faiths to make parenthood an easier, safer and healthier choice for anyone or any family in search of support."

“Last week, Rev. Pat Conroy, a Jesuit priest who served as chaplain for the House of Representatives for 10 years spoke to the Washington Post about being pro-choice and Catholic, as I am,” the governor said. “And he said, and I quote Father Conroy, ‘A good Catholic in our system could be saying given women in our system have this constitutional right, our task as fellow Christians or as Catholics is to make it possible for her to optimize her ability to make the choice.’

“My own journey and evolution on this issue has not been easy and is one that through great reflection has landed on ultimate respect and trust for others,” Murphy said. “Respect especially for those with limited means for whom restrictions on access to reproductive health care has the most devastating effect, and trust that each of us is our own best judge and advisor.

“To be sure I have leaned on my faith to inform and enhance many of my most deeply held values,” he said. “And as I said, this one has been a hard one for me. Yet I would be running afoul of those very same values if I used my personal faith to deny services, especially health services, to those who reach different personal conclusions through their own faith. I cannot allow that to happen, and I will not.”

Catholic bishops had criticized the bill and urged Murphy not to sign it.

Murphy also signed a companion bill expanding insurance coverage for birth control medications.

The bill-signing ceremony was held in Teaneck in a nod to recently retired Sen. Loretta Weinberg, a longtime advocate for the change and funding for women’s health services.

Among the lawmakers attending was new Senate President Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, who said he will be an ally regarding women’s health and abortion rights.

“I’ve got to tell you, I can’t believe we’re still discussing these issues,” Scutari said. “I remember when I was in law school, this was an issue. And we’re still discussing it today. That’s why the fight is necessary.”

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Given the prospect that the Supreme Court may overturn Roe v. Wade, the participants in the event included Alexis McGill Johnson, a former New Jerseyan who is the president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“Today is a bright day – literally is a bright day – in what has been an incredibly dark year for reproductive freedom,” McGill Johnson said.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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