N.J. is now an abortion safe haven for those from other states. Here’s what that means. - world cultures

N.J. is now an abortion safe haven for those from other states. Here’s what that means.

The US Supreme Court’s June 24 decision to end the constitutional right to abortion in America changes nothing for people seeking to terminate a pregnancy in New Jersey.

Abortion is legal in Garden State under state law passed in January.

But the Democratic-led legislature and Governor Phil Murphy, who is also a Democrat, wanted to go ahead and send a message to people living in the 26 states that have either banned the measure or will do so in the coming weeks.

On Friday, Murphy signed a law that will provide legal protection for anyone traveling from another state to have an abortion here, as well as medical providers and anyone else who may assist them.

“These laws will make New Jersey a beacon of freedom for every American woman,” Murphy said during a law-signing ceremony at Pershing Field Community Center in Jersey City last week.

Here’s a breakdown of what the laws do and why abortion rights advocates say these measures are necessary.

Q: Why do people crossing state borders to have an abortion need legal protection?

A: Texas enacted a law 10 months ago that not only prohibited abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy, but also empowered citizens to enforce the law. By leaving state officials out of the enforcement process, it effectively preempts legal challenges in the courts — at least for now. Ordinary citizens can sue anyone who helps patients wanting to terminate a pregnancy—whether clinic workers, doctors, nurses, or even people who lead a woman to have an abortion—and seek civil damages of $10,000.

Idaho and Oklahoma enact similar “bounty hunter” laws. Missouri and Tennessee filed their own bills.

Q: Why do we assume that people will travel to New Jersey from outlying states to have an abortion?

A: After the law was passed in Texas last year, abortion providers in Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma were reportedly “overwhelmed” with patients from the Lone Star State, according to the ACLU. The overflow resulted in longer waiting times for the procedure. If the patient can afford to travel or have a friend or relative in a country where abortion is legal, they go there.

After Texas enacted a six-week abortion ban in September, women’s centers in Cherry Hill have seen a slight uptick in patients from Texas and neighboring states, Roxanne Sutoki, director of community engagement for Women’s Centers, told NJ Advance Media in May.

“New Jersey does indeed and will remain a safe haven for women seeking abortion care,” Kaitlin Vojtovic, vice president of public affairs, Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey, said in an interview after Dobbs’ landmark future ruling was leaked. Reported by Politico on May 2.

Q: What do the new laws do?

Murphy signed the A3974, which prohibits New Jersey from allowing someone to extradite him to another state to stand trial for a crime “for conduct related to reproductive health services that is legal in New Jersey.”

He also signed (A3975), which protects the privacy of medical records for patients undergoing abortion in New Jersey, and protects state-licensed medical professionals from disciplinary action for the act of abortion of a patient coming from a state where the procedure is illegal.

It also prohibits any government agency or employee from cooperating with an interstate investigation into the provision of abortion services.

Both laws are effective immediately.

Q: What do anti-abortion rights advocates say about these laws and the safe haven status of New Jersey?

A: NJ Advance Media asked Mary Tassi, CEO of New Jersey Right to Life, if her organization is considering any challenges to the new laws. “We are exploring all of our options,” she said.

“Gov. Murphy is totally obsessed with abortion,” Tassi added. “He is laser-focused on making New Jersey a global abortion destination, and his next prayer is to get New Jersey taxpayers to pay for all abortions for residents and nonresidents. We will not remain silent while leaders in this legislature and Governor Murphy continue to abuse their power and strike last-minute back deals to make New Jersey the most dangerous place for women and children.”

Murphy sent letters to about 60 companies in states that have laws banning abortion rights, urging them to move to New Jersey because it offers protection as a “potentially dangerous new reality for women.”

Q: Will New Jersey take any other steps to protect abortion rights?

A: It’s not likely. Senate President Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, has publicly stated that there are not enough votes to pass a pending bill that would require insurance companies to cover abortion services without co-pays and create a $20 million reproductive health fund with $15 million for abortion care clinical training programs and 5 Millions of dollars for security guards and security equipment to protect abortion facilities from harassment and attacks.

The two bills passed last week gained traction after the Dobbs decision as lawmakers negotiated agreements on several pieces of legislation in the busy final weeks before lawmakers parted ways for the summer. It also included deals on the state budget and several gun control measures that Murphy signed into law on Tuesday.

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New Jersey Advance Media Staff Writer Brent Johnson The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Susan K. Levi It can be accessed at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter Tweet embed.

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