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State Sen. Joseph Vitale. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Vitale initially noncommittal on Murphy abortion package

Senate Health Committee chair says he’ll wait until bills are actually written

By Joey Fox, May 12 2022 5:11 pm

State Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Woodbridge), the chair of the Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee, said today that he won’t yet take a stance on Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed package of abortion access legislation, which was unveiled in broad terms yesterday but has yet to be put in writing.

“I haven’t had any conversations [with the governor], and I haven’t seen anything in real detail,” Vitale said. “Until I do, I can’t really take a position on it.”

Pressed for his opinions on two of the governor’s plans – an insurance coverage mandate for abortions and an expansion of the pool of potential abortion providers – that had already been laid out in detail in last year’s Reproductive Freedom Act, Vitale still did not lay out a clear opinion.

“Theoretically, we support access to health care for everyone, no matter what it is,” he said. “But again, until there’s real language, I can’t comment on specifics.”

The insurance mandate and abortion provider expansion were ultimately removed from the act, which was renamed the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act. Murphy’s plan also includes two new proposals to create a state reproductive health access fund and shield New Jersey abortion providers from out-of-state litigation and investigations.

Vitale’s guarded stance echoes that of Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-South Amboy), who released a joint statement yesterday broadly supporting abortion access without commenting on the specifics of Murphy’s plan.

“We fundamentally support a woman’s right to choose,” they said. “Fearing the worst and knowing the profoundly adverse consequences of Roe v. Wade being overturned, our legislature acted decisively in January to guarantee a woman’s right to choose in New Jersey under the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act.”

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