NJ legislature to vote on abortion bill that leaves few happy

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TRENTON – Among the 170 bills that could be voted on Monday at the last two-year legislative session meeting, there is a compromise abortion right bill that has both sides of the issue unhappy.

The law project, S49/ A6260, codifies the right to reproductive freedom, including abortion. It is already legal under rulings in state courts, but has never been enshrined in law, and the impetus to do so now comes from a case pending in the United States Supreme Court which could cancel Roe v. Wade.

The bill, however, drops some provisions that had been included in the more ambitious reproductive freedom law, which has rights groups calling for the bill to be defeated.

Sheila Reynertson, senior policy analyst for New Jersey Policy Perspective, said that by dropping a proposal to require insurance coverage, the bill contains no provisions ensuring that everyone has access to an abortion, which regardless of income or immigration status.

She said the message to residents is “that New Jerseyans have a right to choose – but not too easily, not too often, not in late pregnancy, and not if cost is an issue.”

Alejandra Soto, Latin American media and communications director for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said that unless the bill is amended, the state will not deal with access, which means a insurance coverage with no reimbursable costs such as co-pays and co-insurance.

“The reality is that barriers, especially financial barriers, continue to stand in the way of too many people in New Jersey,” Soto said.

Insurance coverage was dropped from a larger version of the bill, in favor of the Insurance Commissioner’s study of which insurance policies should cover the proceedings. Assembly member John Burzichelli D-Gloucester said it was the only new ground in a bill that codifies current practices.

“There is no new law here, in large part,” Burzichelli said. “I know that does not satisfy people who would prefer there to be no access to abortion at all.”

Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats For Life, said the bill did not seem necessary, saying that even a Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade wouldn’t change things in the Garden State.

“New Jersey can lead the way in a post-Roe world by finding common ground and compromise to ensure that no woman sees abortion as her only choice and that no family will abort because that she doesn’t think she can afford to raise a child, ”Day said.

Marie Tasy, executive director of New Jersey Right to Life, said the state already had the highest abortion rate in the country, double the national average, and the bill would invite more.

“And assuming everyone is supporting a radical abortion policy just isn’t where the people of New Jersey are,” Tasy said.

Christine Flaherty of LIFENET said the bill went too far, citing polls that show most Americans want at least restrictions on abortions, even if they are pro-choice. Flaherty and Tasy said sentiment was reflected in the November election in which Republican turnout increased.

“This bill is out of step with what most Americans think about abortion,” Flaherty said.

Michael Symons is the State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at [email protected].

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