Legislation codifies state Supreme Court rulings guaranteeing woman’s right to choose as fundamental right under New Jersey Constitution
TRENTON – The Senate Health Committee today approved legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Senator Linda Greenstein and Senate President Steve Sweeney that would codify state Supreme Court rulings guaranteeing a woman’s right to reproductive choice as a fundamental right under the New Jersey Constitution.
Today’s vote puts Senate Bill 49, the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act, on track for approval by the full Senate Monday, the last day of the current two-year legislative session. The Assembly is also expected to vote on the bill Monday.
“With a woman’s right to choose under Roe v. Wade under attack in the U.S. Supreme Court, it is critical that we enact 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 Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen).
“January 22nd is the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. By signing S49 before that date, the Governor can send a message to the nation that in New Jersey, a woman’s right to choose is, and will remain, a fundamental right,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “I am proud to join Senator Weinberg in fighting for the votes needed to ensure that the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act becomes law.”
The Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act would guarantee “the fundamental right of reproductive autonomy” to all individuals present in New Jersey, including non-residents. It would enable 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 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,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Middlesex/Mercer). “We need to pass this legislation and get it signed into law.”
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.