New Jersey recently strengthened its abortion law, but that hasn't stopped some legislators from pushing bills to restrict rights. (Jane Norman | States Newsroom)
Reproductive rights advocates breathed a sigh of relief this week that abortion access is well-protected in New Jersey, after a leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court decision signaled the nation’s top court could soon allow states to ban the procedure.
But state lawmakers have introduced a long list of abortion bills since January — and most seek to roll back abortion rights.
Six of the bills have popped up perennially and then languished, ignored, with their Republican sponsors waging an uphill battle in a Democratic-controlled Legislature.
Four are new. Democrats filed two in response to the tightening abortion restrictions around the country, while Republicans introduced one that would ban abortion after 12 weeks and another that would repeal the law legislators just passed in January that codified and expanded abortion access in New Jersey.
The GOP bills likely will continue to languish unless Republicans, who made gains after last year’s election, flip one or both legislative chambers next year. That could happen if Republicans perform well at the polls in November 2023, when all 120 legislative seats are again on the ballot, though the GOP would need to capture the governorship for any of them to become law. Gov. Phil Murphy’s term ends in 2026.
Here are some of the abortion bills introduced in the Legislature:
- A bill establishing the “New Jersey Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act” would require health care providers to perform life-saving care to fetuses that survive an abortion (that rarely happens) and ensure their delivery to a hospital for care. Violators would face criminal charges and up to 30 years in prison and $15,000 in fines. Its sponsors are Assemblymen Parker Space (R-Warren) and Harold Wirths (R-Sussex) and Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Warren).
- The “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” would ban abortion after 20 weeks. Violators would be criminally charged and face up to five years in prison and $15,000 in fines. Its sponsors are Assemblyman Ronald Dancer (R-Ocean) and Sens. Steven Oroho (R-Sussex) and Joseph Pennacchio (R-Morris).
- Women incarcerated in county jails who want an abortion would have to pay for it themselves under a bill sponsored by Space and Wirths.
- Physicians would be required to offer patients an obstetrical ultrasound or sonogram within 48 hours before an abortion. Violators would face civil penalties of up to $250,000. Its sponsors are Wirths, Oroho, Pennacchio, and Assemblyman John DiMaio (R-Warren).
- Several measures aim to restrict the use of fetal tissue from abortions. Pennacchio and Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris) introduced a bill to prohibit the use of fetal tissue from elective abortions for research, especially research on cosmetic treatments. Dancer introduced a separate bill to allow authorities to criminally charge doctors who don’t secure informed consent from patients who want to donate aborted tissue for research. Violators would up face up to 18 months in prison and $10,000 in fines.
- Dancer and Sen. Ed Durr (R-Gloucester) want to repeal New Jersey’s new Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act, which Murphy signed into law in January. That act codified and expanded abortion rights in New Jersey, after Democrats fearing the fate of Roe v. Wade nationally acted to shore up rights here.
- Durr introduced a separate bill in January to ban abortion in New Jersey after 12 weeks. Violators could be criminally charged and face up to five years in prison and $15,000 in fines.
Democrats also have put forth several measures to further expand abortion rights in New Jersey.
- Assembly members Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson) and Lisa Swain (D-Bergen) pre-filed legislation to prevent anyone from suing New Jersey residents under a Texas law that permits people to sue anyone who performs or aids in an abortion, even if they have no personal stake in the matter. The bill would bar plaintiffs from suing New Jerseyans under that law, disputing Texas’ jurisdiction.
- Swain wants to prohibit New Jersey from spending state funds in states with restrictive abortion laws.
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