Reproductive rights have recently been in the news, following the nomination of conservative Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court seat of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Seeking to protect residents’ access to reproductive health care, Gov. Phil Murphy announced the introduction of the Reproductive Freedom Act.
This legislation is designed to remove barriers to reproductive health care services, including access to birth control, and pregnancy-related care, including abortion.
“As access to health care and the right to choose are under attack at the federal level, we will support, defend, and protect reproductive rights here in New Jersey,” said Murphy. “The Reproductive Freedom Act will remove barriers to reproductive health, as well as expand access to contraception while reaffirming choice.”
Right to Make Personal Decisions
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37) joined Murphy at the announcement.
“New Jersey has always stood up for a woman’s right to choose,” said Vainieri Huttle. “Unfortunately, for too many New Jerseyans, those legal rights do not translate into access, especially for young people, communities of color, low income communities, the LGBTQIA community and undocumented individuals.”
“At a time where the fundamental right to access reproductive health care is being challenged across the country, I am proud that New Jersey is taking bold action to safeguard these rights and expand access for all.”
Eliminate Financial Barriers
The legislation seeks to ensure that financial barriers do not prevent someone from making personal decisions related to reproductive health as well.
Key provisions of the bill require private insurance coverage for birth control and abortion care with no out-of-pocket costs, to ensure that a person’s income or insurance status do not dictate their ability to access time-sensitive health care.
“Women have to stay vigilant in the fight to keep every single right we have earned—even the rights and protections that have been upheld for decades,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver. “A lot is at stake, but we are not new to this fight and we cannot stand by as our reproductive rights are chipped away, especially in our underserved communities.
Legislators seek to remove any direct correlation between income level and health care access.
“We have spent decades serving our communities, rising above seemingly insurmountable restrictions and barriers, and providing care, often to patients who have historically been and remain underserved — including people of color and those struggling financially,” said Roxanne Sutocky, Patient Advocate and Director of Community Engagement, Cherry Hill Women’s Center. “We’ve always known firsthand that a right is not a right when folks can’t reach care in their own communities. It’s past time for New Jersey to stand with providers, and protect and expand access to care.”
The third component of the bill is to expand access to birth control and pregnancy-related care including abortion by breaking down medically-unnecessary restrictions that right now only serve to block access to care.
Eliminates Medically-unnecessary Restrictions
“The Reproductive Freedom Act seeks to ensure that all people who can become pregnant, regardless of their circumstance, have control over their reproductive health decisions—and by extension their economic status—by removing unnecessary or outdated barriers to health care and providing adequate resources to advance racial equity,” said Brandon McKoy, President of New Jersey Policy Perspective.
Planned Parenthood and the ACLU are among the local organizations applauding this action.
“The current health crisis has reinforced just how important it is to make sure everyone can get the care they need, including reproductive health care, no matter what,” said Kaitlyn Wojtowicz, Vice President of Public Affairs, Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey. “The Reproductive Freedom Act will ensure that everyone — including people of color, people in low income communities, immigrants, the uninsured and other marginalized groups — can make their own personal medical decisions with dignity.”
Supported by NJ’s First Lady
Tammy Murphy, wife of the governor, also released a statement in support of the legislation, promising to move forward despite any obstacles that emerge.
“While other states are turning a blind eye and restricting access to reproductive rights, New Jersey is taking bold steps today to protect reproductive freedom and health equality for all women,” said New Jersey’s First Lady. “As much as today is a declaration of our unyielding commitment to the women of our state, we also know it is another day in our ongoing fight to protect the progress we have made.”