Senate Democrats push new protections for reproductive rights in New Jersey

By: - June 24, 2024 7:10 pm

New Jersey Democrats announced a bill package aimed at strengthening abortion rights on the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned the federal right to an abortion. (Rich Hundley III/ NJ Governor’s Office)

On the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned the federal right to an abortion, New Jersey Senate lawmakers advanced the first measure of what they hope to be a nine-bill package protecting reproductive rights in the Garden State.

The bill passed by the Senate Budget Committee Monday would require insurance and Medicaid coverage for abortions and prohibit insurers from taking any retaliatory action, such as raising rates or denying coverage, even if those people seeking care are not from New Jersey.

“We have to look at the state of New Jersey under the worst-case scenario,” said bill sponsor Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex). “What if the administration changes to someone who’s dramatically far thinking from what we’re thinking today?”

The bill was amended after it was introduced to expand protections for family planning and reproductive health services, which would include abortion, emergency services such as screenings for mothers and newborns, family planning counseling, lab tests, postpartum care for mothers, and medical care for newborns. It advanced by a vote of 9-3, with the Republicans on the committee opposing the bill.

Ruiz is sponsoring eight other bills lawmakers aim to pass in the fall that she said will further strengthen protections for abortion and other family planning methods. While the language for those bills is not yet available, officials say some of the bills would:

  • Create a fund to finance clinical training programs and security grants, and direct health officials to identify gaps in access to services.
  • Protect the data privacy of people using period tracking apps by requiring consent for disclosure.
  • Require Medicaid to cover emergency contraception without a prescription.
  • Provide for voluntary contributions for taxpayers on gross income tax returns to support reproductive health care services.
Sen. Teresa Ruiz (Hal Brown for New Jersey Monitor)

“As we come into the session into the fall, we’ll work collectively together to be sure that every woman, child, and human being is protected,” Ruiz said.

New Jersey saw a spike in abortions after the 2022 Supreme Court decision, known as Dobbs, which overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that protected abortion rights nationally. Since the Dobbs decision, nearly half of the nation’s states have banned abortions or placed restrictions more severe than those allowed by Roe.

In New Jersey, abortion access is protected by the 2022 Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act. That law codified the right to an abortion for people in New Jersey, which had been previously protected by court precedent.

Senate President Nick Scutari (D-Union), who joined Ruiz Monday to announce the package, said there are “two Americas right now for women that are seeking reproductive care and freedom.”

“There are individuals that had the money, the access, the knowledge to be able to move and go to other places where they can get those services, but there are so many countless others that are just stuck, that don’t know where to go,” Scutari said.

The insurance bill that advanced Monday would allow religious employers to request exemptions, which an insurance carrier may grant if the coverage conflicts with the employer’s beliefs and practices. It would prohibit carriers from excluding coverage for care to preserve the life or health of the mother.

Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to sign the bill. Murphy spokesman Mahen Gunaratna said it is one of Murphy’s priorities.

Pro-choice advocates stood with Ruiz as she announced the bill package. Kaitlyn Wojtowicz of Planned Parenthood New Jersey said there is still more that can be done to “meet this moment in a post-Roe health care landscape.”

“We know the fight isn’t over. Those who oppose our personal freedoms and seek to control our bodies, our health, our futures, will continue to tax on abortion, contraception, gender-affirming care and IVF and more,” Wojtowicz said.

Ruiz said the state should look into a constitutional amendment to protect the codified abortion law from being repealed by lawmakers in the future. Scutari said he “wholeheartedly” agrees that lawmakers should consider an amendment, which would have to be approved by voters.

“Elections have consequences and people don’t, can’t possibly imagine New Jersey changing, but we had a Republican governor for eight years,” he said.


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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting. You can reach her at [email protected].

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