New Jersey is taking steps to expand access to reproductive healthcare services across the state.
Under new rules published in the New Jersey Register, the state will do away with medically unnecessary regulations on abortion, as well as open new avenues to seek care.
“At a time when our country is on the verge of severely limiting access to reproductive health care, New Jersey is prioritizing the expansion of these critical services,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a Dec. 6 statement. “Removing outdated barriers to care ensures that all New Jerseyans have equitable access to reproductive health care.”
Key aspects of the new regulations — which were approved unanimously in October by the State Board of Medical Examiners — include:
- Rescinding the Termination of Pregnancy rule, which required that all abortions be performed only by a physician and barred office-based terminations past 14 weeks of pregnancy.
- Allowing advanced practice nurses, physician assistants, certified nurse midwives and certified midwives to perform early aspiration termination of pregnancy.
- Updating regulations to integrate reproductive care within the generally applicable rules designed to ensure the safety of patients who undergo surgery or special procedures in an office setting.
The changes follow recommendations of a State Board of Medical Examiners subcommittee empaneled in 2018 to study current regulations in light of advances in the reproductive healthcare field.
As part of its review, the board considered nationally recognized medical and public health studies, which found that certain early abortion procedures can be safely performed by non-physician clinicians. The studies indicated that medically unnecessary over-regulation of abortion itself creates public health harms by disrupting access to essential care.
“The changes being adopted today will ensure more New Jersey residents have access to vital reproductive care,” said Dr. Scott E. Metzger, President of the State Board of Medical Examiners.
Dr. Metzger added that “a great deal of time and effort” that went into the regulatory proposals, and the “unanimous decision signals it was time to implement changes to allow additional qualified professionals to provide needed abortion care.”
By allowing for certain healthcare providers other than physicians to perform abortions, the updated rules significantly expand access to reproductive care in New Jersey.
Currently, there are approximately 11,956 advanced practice nurses, 4,495 physician assistants, 393 certified nurse midwives and 18 certified midwives in the state who could become authorized to perform the procedure, according to the Murphy administration.
The move was applauded by advocacy groups, such as Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey.
“Every New Jerseyan deserves the ability to make their own personal health care decisions, especially when it comes to reproductive health care and abortion,” said Kaitlyn Wojtowicz, vice president of Public Affairs, Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey (PPAFNJ). “We at PPAFNJ thank the Board of Medical Examiners for this necessary step to expanding access so we can all get the care we need, when we need it,” she said.
New Jersey Acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck praised the changes as well, pointing out it comes as the right to reproductive healthcare and access to abortion “is under attack elsewhere.”
“Here in New Jersey, we are committed to ensuring that everyone has access to the health services they need, including people of color and underserved communities disproportionately affected by barriers to care,” Bruck said.