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by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle
Published on NorthJersey.com
For nearly half a century, women in the United States have had a constitutional right to access safe and legal abortion services. And since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, opponents of reproductive rights have been relentless in their attempts to take away our rights.
The fate of reproductive freedom has long been at the mercy of the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, with the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, the balance has shifted.
The balance of the Supreme Court, whose ideological makeup and beliefs do not reflect those of most Americans, presents a significant threat to the basic freedom that gives all of us the fundamental choice of deciding when and whether to have a family, and guarantees us personal control over their bodies and our futures.
These rights are and will be under siege in a barrage of court cases, and fear that these freedoms and the right to reproductive healthcare protections enshrined by the U.S. Supreme Court nearly a half-century ago could be lost.
Under the belief and conviction that every New Jerseyan should be able to make such choices freely and have access to the quality medical care they need to support their decision, we have introduced the Reproductive Freedom Act.
As a state, New Jersey has a legacy of protecting reproductive freedoms. This bill will codify this tradition and ensure that everyone who needs essential health care — including birth control and pregnancy-related care, including abortion — is able to receive it.
As politicians in other states race to take reproductive rights out of reach of their constituents, we are working to ensure that all New Jerseyans have access to the care that they need, no matter what.
We understand that decisions around family planning and pregnancy are deeply personal. As legislators, we believe that these decisions should not be in the hands of politicians with no expertise on these issues but instead in consultation with a woman’s family, physician and faith.
Often, individuals and groups that are opposed to safe, legal abortion spread misinformation, in the hopes of pushing access to these essential reproductive health services out of reach. These claims are simply untrue – they do not reflect the reality of abortion care. What we know, and what this bill supports, is that a person’s health and specific circumstances, not political interference, should guide important medical decisions throughout their pregnancy. We can all agree that everyone should be able to get care based on our unique needs and doctor’s best advice. And that’s what this bill does – it ensures that individuals in New Jersey can make their own personal health care decisions.
This legislation is critical as opponents of reproductive rights and abortion rights continue their relentless attacks on these basic freedoms.
Over the last five years, anti-abortion politicians have introduced nearly 500 bills to establish medically unnecessary abortion restrictions in states across the country, with more than two dozen laws enacted last year alone. Some of these laws have been especially punitive, forcing those in need of reproductive health care to travel hundreds of miles to receive services or placing undue restrictions on providers.
Studies have showed that those states that have imposed restrictive abortion laws are those that leave large numbers of pregnant women without health care and tend to have higher rates of infant mortality.
With the ascension of Justice Barrett, who has been openly hostile to reproductive rights, we simply can no longer rely on the courts to protect our societal right to safe, legal abortion care. Now, more than ever, we must stand up for access.
As elected representatives, we have a responsibility to advocate on behalf of our constituents. We believe that these fundamental rights must be preserved for our residents, regardless of race, religion, geography, socioeconomic status or gender, including transgender and non-binary individuals. It is clear that those members of our communities who already face significant barriers to health care due to the systemic racism that persists in our nation’s institutions will be among those at greatest risk if this basic right is taken away.
If the global coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that New Jersey families and neighborhoods are stronger, safer, and healthier when everyone has equal access to treatment and care. Now is the time to prioritize the health and well-being of our residents by ensuring that everyone who needs essential reproductive care can avail themselves to it without fear or undue burden. We must actively protect and respect the individual right to make medical decisions, especially personal choices about birth control and pregnancy.
Further, the Reproductive Freedom Act will make New Jersey residents healthier by knocking down barriers to health care, especially in Black, Hispanic and immigrant communities who are bearing the brunt of this global pandemic. Our bill makes certain that financial barriers do not get in the way of exercising fundamental reproductive rights and removes medically unnecessary restrictions that serve to block access to care.
We know that many members of our communities struggle to access affordable birth control and safe, legal abortion. This legislation aims to ensure that no one is left behind.
Whether making the decision to have an abortion or deciding to have a child, all New Jerseyans should have access to the medical care they need. We must ensure that New Jersey unequivocally respects individual choices and supports families.
But we need to act swiftly. New Jersey must prioritize the health and well-being of all people in our great state. We must protect and expand everyone’s ability to access reproductive health care. We are proud to sponsor the Reproductive Freedom Act and call upon our colleagues in the Legislature to join us in passing it now.
State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, serves as New Jersey Senate Majority Leader and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, serves as Deputy Speaker of the Assembly.
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by Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro
Published in the Jersey Journal
No matter how much progress we have made as a nation in terms of expanding access to reproductive health care, it always seems like we’re one election or one Supreme Court justice nominee away from unraveling all of it. It’s time to put that fear aside in New Jersey and pass the Reproductive Freedom Act.
The Reproductive Freedom Act would codify existing state laws that ensure every individual has a fundamental right to choose or refuse contraception, choose whether to carry a pregnancy, and ensure that no public entity will interfere with an individual’s fundamental right to make their own decisions about reproductive health care. This legislation explicitly spells out protections for all New Jerseyans, including transgender and non-binary individuals.
The decision about whether and when to become a parent is one of the most personal life decisions that someone can make. When someone makes the decision to have an abortion, we need to ensure that it is safe, affordable and free from punishment or judgment from our government.
As we prepare for the frightening possibility of a far right-leaning United States Supreme Court, the Reproductive Freedom Act reinforces that the New Jersey Constitution protects the right to abortion and reproductive autonomy. Most importantly, it requires all insurance carriers operating in our state to provide coverage for these services. It has received support from a broad coalition, including the ACLU of New Jersey, National Institute for Reproductive Health, and many other national and statewide advocacy organizations and think tanks.
When Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg died in September, it became clear that now more than ever, access to reproductive health is at risk in this country.
I’m proud to sponsor this legislation to send the message that New Jersey needs to lead the charge to protect affordable access to health care. This bill lets it be known: New Jersey stands for freedom, compassion, and healthy communities, and our state will continue to ensure that no matter what threats you hear at every election, New Jersey’s proven track record of supporting reproductive health will continue.
Please ask your representatives to join me in supporting the Reproductive Freedom Act today.
Annette Chaparro, a Democrat, represents the 33rd District in the New Jersey Assembly. The district covers all of Hoboken, Union City and Weehawken as well as portions of Jersey City.
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Reproductive Freedom Act Aims to Protect and Expand Health Care Access in New Jersey
Advocates from Across the State Call on Lawmakers to Pass Bill and Ensure Reproductive Health Care Access for All
TRENTON, N.J. — As politicians in other states race to push reproductive health care out of reach, Governor Phil Murphy and legislative leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, are stepping up to protect reproductive freedom and remove barriers to access for all people who need care. During an announcement event today, the Governor announced that lawmakers will introduce the Reproductive Freedom Act, proactive legislation that will help protect and expand New Jerseyans’ ability to receive reproductive health care, such as birth control, and pregnancy-related care, including abortion.
The Reproductive Freedom Act protects and expands access to essential reproductive health care services in three key ways:
1. The Reproductive Freedom Act explicitly ensures all New Jerseyans have the right to make their own personal health decisions when it comes to birth control and pregnancy-related care, including abortion. The decision about whether and when to become a parent is one of the most important life decisions we make. We need to trust all people who can become pregnant to make decisions about their own health and lives.
2. The Reproductive Freedom Act makes certain that financial barriers do not prevent anyone from making their own personal health decisions when it comes to birth control and pregnancy-related care, including abortion. Key provisions of the bill require private insurance coverage for birth control and abortion care with no out-of-pocket costs, to ensure that a person’s income or insurance status do not dictate their ability to access time-sensitive health care.
3. The Reproductive Freedom Act expands access to birth control and pregnancy-related care including abortion by breaking down medically-unnecessary restrictions that right now only serve to block access to care. It is time to secure a future that safeguards reproductive care, upholds basic rights and justice, and respects decision-making throughout pregnancy.
In New Jersey, everyone should be able to receive the care they need and plan their families without barriers, fear, or interference from others. The current health crisis also makes clear how essential it is for everyone to be able to make their own medical decisions and get the health care they need with dignity and respect. Now is the time to pass the Reproductive Freedom Act and send a clear message: New Jersey is a state that stands for freedom, compassion, and healthy communities, and we will make sure that everyone can get the care they need, when they need it.
“As access to health care and the right to choose are under attack at the federal level, we will support, defend, and protect reproductive rights here in New Jersey,” said Governor Murphy. “The Reproductive Freedom Act will remove barriers to reproductive health, as well as expand access to contraception while reaffirming choice. Together, we stand unwavering in our commitment to work towards reproductive freedom for all New Jerseyans.”
“Women have to stay vigilant in the fight to keep every single right we have earned - even the rights and protections that have been upheld for decades,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, who serves as Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs. “A lot is at stake, but we are not new to this fight and we cannot stand by as our reproductive rights are chipped away - especially in our underserved communities. Today, I throw my full support behind the Reproductive Freedom Act because it will help protect and expand the laws that ensure everyone in our State has the ability to access preventative healthcare and make personal health care decisions.”
“This legislation delivers on the promise of equitable access to reproductive healthcare for all New Jersey residents,” said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg. “I am proud to stand with Asw. Vainieri-Huttle and the Thrive Coalition in the fight for this essential right.”
“New Jersey has always stood up for a woman's right to choose,” said Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle. “Unfortunately, for too many New Jerseyans, those legal rights do not translate into access, especially for young people, communities of color, low income communities, the LGBTQIA community and undocumented individuals. At a time where the fundamental right to access reproductive health care is being challenged across the country, I am proud that New Jersey is taking bold action to safeguard these rights and expand access for all.”
“While other states are turning a blind eye and restricting access to reproductive rights, New Jersey is taking bold steps today to protect reproductive freedom and health equality for all women,” said First Lady Tammy Murphy. “As much as today is a declaration of our unyielding commitment to the women of our state, we also know it is another day in our ongoing fight to protect the progress we have made. And, no matter the obstacles, we will only move forward.”
“The current health crisis has reinforced just how important it is to make sure everyone can get the care they need, including reproductive health care, no matter what,” said Kaitlyn Wojtowicz, Vice President of Public Affairs, Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey. “The Reproductive Freedom Act will ensure that everyone — including people of color, people in low income communities, immigrants, the uninsured and other marginalized groups — can make their own personal medical decisions with dignity.”
“In this moment of profound urgency for our health and rights, the tireless dedication of independent abortion providers here in New Jersey models a path forward for us all,” said Roxanne Sutocky, Patient Advocate and Director of Community Engagement, Cherry Hill Women’s Center. “We have spent decades serving our communities, rising above seemingly insurmountable restrictions and barriers, and providing care, often to patients who have historically been and remain underserved — including people of color and those struggling financially. We’ve always known firsthand that a right is not a right when folks can’t reach care in their own communities. It’s past time for New Jersey to stand with providers, and protect and expand access to care.”
“At a pivotal moment for our country, New Jersey has the opportunity to stand firm in the values of freedom and equity, and to act on urgent calls to confront systemic racial injustices, by passing the Reproductive Freedom Act,” said Sarah Fajardo, Policy Director of ACLU New Jersey. “The Reproductive Freedom Act expands and protects access to reproductive health care for all New Jerseyans regardless of income level, immigration status, or gender identity. We’re proud to join Gov. Murphy, Sen. Weinberg, Asw. Huttle, and our fellow advocates in advancing this landmark legislation ”
“New Jersey has a strong record of advancing reproductive health care policy, but programs that serve low-income people, especially women of color, have chronically been vulnerable to funding cuts — a policy choice that exasperates health care gaps and disparities and upholds the systemic oppression of historically marginalized groups,” said Brandon McKoy, President of New Jersey Policy Perspective. “The Reproductive Freedom Act seeks to ensure that all people who can become pregnant, regardless of their circumstance, have control over their reproductive health decisions—and by extension their economic status—by removing unnecessary or outdated barriers to health care and providing adequate resources to advance racial equity.”
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Earlier today, the State Board of Medical Examiners voted in favor of a rule change to enhance access to reproductive care by repealing outdated restrictions. In response to this announcement, Thrive NJ releases the following statement.
Jasmine Winters, Coordinator, Thrive NJ Coalition:
“We applaud the Board of Medical Examiners for taking action on outdated and harmful regulations to help ensure that everyone who needs abortion care is able to access it with dignity and respect.
“These regulations treat abortion care differently from other medical procedures and restrict care by limiting who could provide abortion care and in what medical settings. They do nothing to protect patients. In fact, they hurt patients by creating barriers that are not medically indicated and ultimately interfere with time-sensitive care.
“By removing medically unnecessary regulations, the BME lifts a significant barrier for patients seeking to end a pregnancy and providers wishing to provide abortion care. All New Jerseyans deserve seamless access to the care they need — especially if there is another surge of COVID cases as we head into the flu season.
“As politicians in other states race to push reproductive care out of reach, it is more important than ever to safeguard comprehensive health care. Even in the midst of a public health crisis, the Trump-Pence administration continues to attack access to reproductive health care. Today's announcement sends a clear message: New Jersey is a state where everyone can receive the care they need and plan their families without barriers, fears, or interference from others. Because when people can make personal health decisions that are best for their lives, families and communities thrive.”
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Thrive NJ is a statewide coalition of more than 60 organizations working collectively to promote sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice through policy change and advocacy.