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New Jersey Statehouse. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

New Jersey plans constitutional amendment on abortion on 2023 ballot

Legislature heading toward vote this year to make abortion a constitutional right

By David Wildstein, November 15 2022 10:00 am

Legislative leaders in New Jersey are proposing a constitutional amendment that would enshrine abortion as a basic human right with the intention of seeking voter approval in the November 2023 general election, the New Jersey Globe has confirmed.

This sets up a high-profile referendum in a traditionally light turnout election where candidates for State Senate and Assembly head the ballot.  Democrats seeking to defend their two decades of majorities in Trenton believe the added turnout in a state that largely supports legal abortion will boost their candidates next year.

The proposal, which could be introduced as early as next week, would broadly define abortion as a right that could never be stripped away, but would still depend on laws currently in place and allow future legislation, including issues of funding, to be passed in the future that are consistent with the State Constitution, a source briefed on the details of the plan told the New Jersey Globe.

The plan will keep the issue in the center, possibly forcing some pro-choice Republicans to vote in favor of putting the constitutional amendment on the ballot.

The legislature is expected to vote on the constitutional amendment before the end of this year, after introductory language is introduced, along with one committee hearing and one public hearing.  Only a simple majority is needed to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot if it is approved by both houses in two consecutive years.

“While Democrats have not shared their proposal publicly, we should oppose their effort on both moral and scientific grounds if it seeks to enshrine in our constitution the extreme idea that abortion should be legal right up until birth,” said Senate Minority Leader Steve Oroho (R-Franklin).  “We should follow the science to determine when an unborn child is viable outside the womb and when that child feels pain. Further, we should not sacrifice women’s safety by allowing non-doctors to perform invasive abortions as Democrats have sought to allow.”

A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll month released earlier this shows that 51% of New Jerseyans believe  abortion should be legal under any circumstance, while 37% say they support legal abortion under certain circumstances.  Just 10% of the state wants to ban abortion in all circumstances.

“New Jersey is much more pro-choice than the country as a whole,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of Government and Politics at FDU, and the executive Director of the poll.

This story was updated at 5:52 PM with comment from Oroho.

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