With the U.S. Supreme Court ruling to allow states around the country to ban or severely restrict abortion, the New Jersey Legislature passed two bills today that safeguard the state’s abortion providers and out-of-state patients from other states’ laws. The bills now go to the desk of Gov. Phil Murphy, who has said he will sign them.
“Many states have already enacted laws that will prohibit a woman’s right to make personal decisions with her doctor about her health care,” Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-South Orange), one of the sponsors of the bills, said in a statement. “We’ve [acted] here in New Jersey to ensure women’s rights are protected. This legislation is another step.”
Murphy has long been a staunch supporter of abortion access, and signed a bill codifying abortion access into state law earlier this year. When the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked in May, the governor and his legislative allies unveiled a major set of proposals further expanding access to abortion in New Jersey; the bills passed today represent only one part of the governor’s goals.
Just a few days ago, it wasn’t looking like any abortion legislation would pass the legislature before the summer recess at all, thanks to a set of modestly pro-life Democrats standing in the way.
Then, on Saturday, the Senate posted the two bills for a committee vote on Monday, and the Assembly followed suit on Monday morning, just a few hours before the vote itself took place – a turn of events that Senate President Nick Scutari (D-Linden) attributed to the Supreme Court’s decision.
A small number of Republicans in both chambers voted yes today on one or both bills: Assemblymembers Kim Eulner (R-Shrewsbury), Marilyn Piperno (R-Colts Neck), and Michael Torrissi (R-Hammonton), and State Sens. Jean Stanfield (R-Westampton), Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale), and Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield).
“I don’t want to see anybody that does something legal here face extradition to another state,” Stanfield said in explaining her yes votes. “Our laws are what they are, and if people are acting within those laws, they shouldn’t have any repercussions.”
More than a dozen other legislators either abstained on both bills or didn’t vote on either, among them two Democrats, State Sen. Fred Madden (D-Washington) and Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera (D-Gloucester).
There’s been some wrangling over the language of the bills themselves, including a last-minute substitute that aligned an Assembly bill with an entirely separate Senate bill on Monday. As the language ultimately stands, the main impact of the bills would be to protect abortion providers and out-of-state residents coming to New Jersey for abortions from extradition and other legal action initiated by more restrictive states.
The full legislature is unlikely to reconvene before the fall, meaning that the bills passed today will probably be the state’s only immediate legislative response to the fall of Roe v. Wade. Murphy and some progressive Democrats are sure to continue pushing for more expansive abortion legislation when the summer recess ends, but given the number of legislative Democrats who have been skeptical of such legislation in the past, they face a difficult road ahead.
George Christopher contributed reporting.