New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) on Wednesday announced legislation to expand reproductive health care coverage in the state, with a particular eye on abortion access ― and other states’ efforts to curtail it.
Speaking from behind a pink placard reading “Ensuring Reproductive Freedom,” Murphy rolled out a handful of proposals that build on the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act, which codified the right to an abortion into state law earlier this year.
“In the coming weeks, a right-wing majority on the U.S. Supreme Court likely will take a wrecking ball to 50 years of its own precedent, and for the very first time in American history overturn a decision in order to diminish our rights,” the governor said, explaining the impetus for his proposals.
“Without access, rights mean nothing,” he added.
Murphy then urged the state Assembly to pass legislation expanding the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act, in particular seeking to:
- Mandate that insurance plans in New Jersey cover abortion with no out-of-pocket-costs.
- Expand the number of potential abortion providers to include advanced practice nurses, midwives and physician assistants.
- Establish a Reproductive Health Access Fund to expand and protect reproductive health care providers.
- Protect medical providers and patients who provide or receive abortion care in the state from legal actions initiated by states who have outlawed abortion.
That last point is a particularly interesting development. While Republican-led states across the country have enacted abortion bans aimed at challenging Roe v. Wade, some, like Texas, have gone further.
In Texas, any private citizen is entitled to collect $10,000 if they bring a successful lawsuit against someone who performed ― or helped a woman obtain ― an abortion after cardiac activity is detected in the fetus, which can occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy. That can even include driving the woman to the airport to receive health care in another state.
Murphy didn’t describe in detail how he intends to shield New Jersey’s medical providers from complying with legal action that originates in another state, but he was adamant about the commitment.
“Let me be clear,” he said in a statement after the speech. “New Jersey will not cooperate with any out of state investigation into our health care providers that seeks to punish anyone ― patient, provider, counselor, friend, or Uber driver ― for providing abortion care.”
“Abortion is health care and health care decisions should be left up to the individual,” he added. “With the legislation we’ve announced today, New Jersey will continue to lead the way forward on reproductive freedom.”