Superior Court Judge Robert Lougy today rejected a request for an emergency injunction blocking the implementation of the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act, a bill passed by the legislature last week that codifies abortion access into state law.
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The case’s plaintiffs will argue before the court once again next month for a preliminary injunction, but Lougy’s ruling today means that the law will not be stopped from going into effect on an emergency basis.
The plaintiffs argued that the law was invalid along two primary lines of reasoning: first, that the content of the law itself constituted irreparable harm, and second, that the rushed and secretive manner by which the law passed was in violation of state law.
When it was first introduced to the Assembly Appropriations Committee and Senate Health Committee on January 6, the bill was not posted on either committee’s legislative calendar, meaning that those who would have wished to testify for or against the bill had little ability to do so, something which the plaintiffs repeatedly noted.
“If we had known the bill was there, we would have all been at the statehouse,” plaintiff Victoria Jakelsky said. “It’s as clear as could be: they broke their own rules by not posting it… The public, who was not present at the New Jersey Capitol, had absolutely no ability to voice their opinion.”
But Lougy agreed with legislative counsel Leon Sokol and Deputy State Solicitor Angela Cai on the merits, saying that codifying abortion did not constitute irreparable harm to the plaintiffs and that the “internal deliberative processes” of the legislature are not subject to the state Open Public Meetings Act.
“The substantive provisions of [the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act] do largely mirror the rights earlier adjudicated by the state Supreme Court several decades ago, and those have remained fairly consistent,” Lougy said.
The legislation, first introduced in the fall of 2020 as a more wide-ranging bill, was met with skepticism from many legislators and was not introduced to committee for more than a year after it was proposed. But a pared-down version of the bill faced few hurdles once it was finally brought to committee, and passed the legislature with only a small number of defectors from each party; Murphy signed it days later.