Passing the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act in New Jersey
On January 19, 2022 – on the eve of the 49th and presumed-to–be last anniversary of Roe v. Wade – New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act into law, along with a second bill ensuring coverage for 12 months of contraception without a copay. These were significant and meaningful steps forward for the state, even while falling short of the the more impactful Reproductive Freedom Act, which NIRH and our partners at the Thrive NJ Coalition had been championing for multiple years.
The Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act, S49/A6260, codifies into statute the existing right to abortion in New Jersey, currently only protected by state case law. After New Jersey emerged from its years under Gov. Chris Christie, NIRH believed that there was great opportunity and need to establish New Jersey as a reliable source of safe, affordable, and accessible abortion services and a leader in progressive health care policy.
In 2018, NIRH partnered with New Jersey Policy Perspective and the Cherry Hill Women’s Center, an independent abortion clinic that also advocates for supportive laws and policies, to to both protect rights and improve access to reproductive health care and in New Jersey. With the support of NIRH, CHWC and NJPP successfully developed the collaborative and inclusive Thrive NJ coalition. Thrive NJ collectively built a robust membership including 55 organizations, advocated for state policies to expand reproductive health, rights, and justice while building and deepening relationships with key elected officials. Coalition members put their weight behind a number of bills, including the Address Confidentiality Bill, which was signed into law. Together with Planned Parenthood and other Thrive NJ members, CHWC and NJPP successfully worked with the administration on amendments to address the needs of vulnerable communities.
The result was the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act, an expansive bill that would have not only enshrined the right to make reproductive decisions, including abortion, it would have addressed the affordability of abortion – a major barrier to access – and ensured that undocumented people have coverage for this care. In 2021, the Thrive NJ coalition lobbied hard for passage of the Reproductive Health Act.
At the end of the 2021 legislative session, the legislature failed to show enough support for the Reproductive Freedom Act, instead passing the Freedom of Choice Act and codifying 12-month supply of birth control. NIRH continues to work alongside members of the Thrive Coalition in New Jersey, and is still working to pass laws to meaningfully improve access to the full range of reproductive health care in New Jersey.