New Jersey is a big step closer to allowing an expanded approach to abortions under a proposal to roll back “outdated rules,” according to the State Board of Medical Examiners.

Advanced practice nurses, physician assistants, certified nurse midwives and certified midwives already are permitted to administer medication-based termination of pregnancy in New Jersey.

The proposed changes would include allowing those same medical professionals, in addition to doctors, to provide "aspiration" abortion care.

Currently, there are about 11,024 advanced practice nurses, 4,379 physician assistants, 363 certified nurse midwives and 15 certified midwives in New Jersey who may be authorized to perform the procedure in the future, as confirmed by state officials on Monday.

Another proposed update would remove the state's restriction on office-based abortions beyond 14 weeks of a pregnancy.

The Board’s vote in September 2020 was based on recommendations made in late 2018 by a subcommittee. That panel had examined how New Jersey’s current regulations measure up to recent case law as well as advances in the medical field.

A law passed in New York in 2019 similarly extended the range of qualified medical professionals able to see patients seeking abortions.

As reported by NBC News in May 2019, 11 lawsuits over a two-year span were filed in states with physician-only laws, including Maine, Arizona and Montana, with the intent of expanding such care to be legally carried out by nurse practitioners, midwives and physician assistants.

A 2013 study led by the University of California San Francisco found first trimester abortions were just as safe when performed by either physicians or trained nurse practitioners, physician assistants and certified nurse midwives.

“The Board’s evidence-based modernization of its rules will bring New Jersey into line with states across the country that have already taken action to increase access to quality care,” state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a written statement.

Gov. Phil Murphy also supports the change.

“I thank the Board of Medical Examiners for their thoughtful and deliberative examination of the rules and work to repeal antiquated regulations and expand access to reproductive care for all New Jerseyans," he said in a written statement on Monday.

Among critics of the proposal is New Jersey Right to Life Executive Director Marie Tasy, who said that the proposal was "based on biased studies" and called abortion "an invasive, dangerous procedure."

"The NJ Board of Medical Examiners has clearly forfeited their credibility as an independent agency whose paramount responsibility is to protect the public’s health, safety and welfare," Tasy said in a written statement. "The rules certainly don’t protect women, but instead protect those who shamefully seek to make a profit from the bodies of women and the death of innocent children."

Kaitlyn Wojtowicz, vice president of public affairs for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey, applauded the Board for "repealing these medically unnecessary regulations."

“In New Jersey, everyone should be able to receive the care they need and plan their families without barriers, fear, or interference from others," she said. “The existing regulations on abortion access are outdated and medically unnecessary, obstruct physicians and other qualified clinicians from providing care, and prove a significant barrier for patients seeking to end a pregnancy. The regulations do nothing to support patient safety; on the contrary, they restrict access to safe, legal abortion care."

Members of the public now can comment on the proposal during a 60-day window, according to Grewal's office, which oversees the Division of Consumer Affairs' regulation of professional and occupational licensing boards.

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