What NJ is doing to protect out-of-state women seeking abortion
TRENTON – State lawmakers are moving quickly to protect travelers to New Jersey and abortion providers from any actions that may be taken against them by states where the procedure is made illegal, following last week’s Supreme Court decision.
The Legislature isn’t acting on everything Gov. Phil Murphy suggested last month, such as requiring private insurers to cover abortion without cost-sharing.
But legislative committees voted Monday to advance bills that would protect people seeking or providing abortions by preventing information about patients and procedures from being shared in interstate investigations and allowing someone sued for their role in an abortion to countersue.
“These bills will provide legal protection for all who seek or assist in providing reproductive care here in New Jersey,” said Sen. Nia Gill, D-Essex. “Over half the nation are expected to criminalize or restrict access to abortion. Due to this, we know many will come to New Jersey to receive care.”
“We must move on the state level to protect our rights and our citizens because the Supreme Court of the United States has said that the Constitution does not,” Gill said.
Marie Tasy, executive director of New Jersey Right to Life, said the bills are part of an effort to make New Jersey “an abortion sanctuary state.” It already ranks first among states in the rate of abortions performed, totaling 48,830 in 2020, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
As a rate, that amounts to 29.2 for every 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44, which is more than double the national rate of 14.4.
“These bills will make New Jersey a state where even more babies’ lives will be ended and more women’s lives will be put at risk,” Tasy said.
Tasy said last week’s ruling leaves abortion laws to each state to decide for themselves.
“We should not interfere in the actions of other states but solve the problems, the many problems we already have in our own state,” Tasy said.
Roxanne Sutocky, director of community engagement for the Women’s Center, said the organization in talking about whether it needs to relocate any of the five centers it operates in four states. That includes one in Cherry Hill.
“We do not feel safe right now in New Jersey without these protections. Hostile anti-abortion states are moving quickly on these matters,” Sutocky said. “We know that the overturning of Roe is not the end. We know that the criminalization of abortion is to continue.”
The bills include a provision preventing anyone from being extradited from New Jersey to another state in connection with an abortion investigation.
Sen Jon Bramnick, R-Union, who is pro-choice, questioned if that bill is designed in response to a particular case or more hypothetical. Other states have laws on the books allowing civil actions to be filed in connection with an out-of-state abortion, though there aren’t laws at this time allowing for criminal prosecution.
“If that becomes the law of this country that you violate a Texas law while you’re in New Jersey and Texas can prosecute it, we got bigger problems than I ever expected in the United States of America,” Bramnick said.