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Scutari, Weinberg, Greenstein, Sweeney, Gopal: Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act Sends Message to Nation

Law enacted today codifies NJ Supreme Court rulings ensuring woman’s right to choose as a fundamental right under New Jersey Constitution


TRENTON – Senate President Nick Scutari, former Senate President Steve Sweeney, former Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, and Senators Linda Greenstein and Vin Gopal today lauded the enactment of the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act, which codified state Supreme Court rulings guaranteeing a woman’s right to reproductive choice as a fundamental right under the New Jersey Constitution.


Sponsored by Senators Weinberg, Greenstein, Sweeney and Gopal, the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act guarantees “the fundamental right of reproductive autonomy” to all individuals present in New Jersey, including non-residents. The bill was signed into law by Governor Murphy today in Senator Weinberg’s hometown, Teaneck.


“Enacting the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act into statute will help protect the reproductive rights of women in New Jersey against the potential reversal by the United States Supreme Court,” said Senate President Nick Scutari (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset). “It is rooted in the State Constitution, consistent with decisions by the New Jersey Supreme Court and written to safeguard the fundamental right of women to make their own decisions on reproductive care. We will not allow these rights to be lost to forces outside the state that run counter to the core beliefs of the people of New Jersey, including the principle of equal treatment for women by insurance companies. Coverage for contraceptives should be granted the same level of importance as other prescriptions. These laws enshrine protections and make progress for women in New Jersey.”


“With a woman’s right to choose under Roe v. Wade under attack in the U.S. Supreme Court, it is critical that we have enacted legislation rooted in the New Jersey Constitution that clearly and unequivocally protects freedom of reproductive choice, including the right to access contraception, the right to terminate a pregnancy, and the right to carry a pregnancy to term,” said former Senator Weinberg, the Bergen County Democrat who was the lead sponsor of the bill.


“January 22nd is the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. With the enactment of S49 into law,  the Legislature and the Governor are sending a clear message to the nation that in New Jersey, a woman’s right to choose is, and will remain, a fundamental right,” said former Senator Sweeney, who pushed through the bill on his last day as Senate President. “I was proud to join Senator Weinberg in fighting to ensure that the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act would become law.”


“The Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act is a comprehensive bill that guarantees women will continue to have the right to make their own personal decisions on their reproductive care, regardless of how the U.S. Supreme Court rules. “I’m pleased to see this incredibly important legislation signed into law today,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex).


A person’s right of reproductive choice, in effect a right of control over one’s own body, remains a fundamental right enshrined in our Constitution,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth). “This law, the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act, will protect this basic freedom under New Jersey statute and ensure individual choice on when and whether to have children in a time and place that is compatible with their lifestyles and beliefs. Self-determination is one of the founding principles of this state and this nation. That principle should and must extend to any person in New Jersey regarding reproductive rights.”


The Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act enables all qualified health care professionals to provide pregnancy termination services. The bill authorizes the Department of Banking and Insurance to issue regulations requiring insurance companies to provide coverage for abortions upon completion of a study demonstrating the need for such coverage. The bill recognizes the right of religious employers to request an exemption from such coverage if it conflicts with their religious beliefs.


The Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act specifically cites the right to reproductive choice established by the New Jersey Supreme Court in Right to Choose v. Byrne (1981) and Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey v. Farmer (2000); the cases asserted the “fundamental right of a woman to control her body and destiny.”


The legislation specifically recognizes that:


Governmental restrictions on reproductive choice, by their very nature, impinge on the constitutional right to reproductive autonomy, particularly when they fail to confer any benefits to patients in the form of improved health or safety. Moreover, restrictions of this nature often have a disparate impact that is predominantly felt by persons who already experience barriers to health care access, including young people, people of color, people with disabilities, people with low income, people living in rural areas, immigrants, and people who are transgender or non-binary.


The Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act emerged after weeks of negotiations that followed indications that the U.S. Supreme Court was preparing to restrict the federal right to reproductive choice established under the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The high court heard arguments in October on a Mississippi law that would ban the termination of pregnancies after 15 weeks.