NJ finalizes abortion refuge for out-of-staters, protecting them and their doctors from extradition

NJ finalizes abortion refuge for out-of-staters, protecting them and their doctors from extradition

Bracing for a surge of out-of-state women getting abortions in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday signed two laws to ensure those seeking reproductive care — and the doctors who serve them — are protected from some prosecution.

The measures ban the extradition of health professionals providing abortion care and their patients to states that make the practice illegal. It would also prohibit public agencies and workers from cooperating with out-of-state investigations related to reproductive care that is legal in New Jersey.

Medical providers also won’t be allowed to disclose certain information about patients who seek abortions without the patient’s consent, such as details of personal exams or communications related to care. Additionally, providers’ medical licenses won’t be revoked for giving abortions to women seeking care from state’s with abortion bans.

“The fact that we have to do what we’re doing today says so much about where we are as a country,” Murphy said during the bill signing in Jersey City on Friday. “These laws will make New Jersey a beacon of freedom for every American woman.”

The measures come a week after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey — eliminating the federal constitutional right to abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights watchdog, about half the states in the country are expected to ban or restrict abortion.

New Jersey codified the right to an abortion in its state constitution in January but dropped a provision mandating insurance companies to cover abortion costs.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a package of laws last month that similarly establish legal protections for out-of-state women who get abortion care. The measures go further by allowing people to file a civil suit if any person or entity interferes with their right to an abortion in the state. New York lawmakers are also trying to gain access to abortion and contraception in the state constitution through an amendment that would need voter approval. The state Senate advanced that measure on Friday.

Kaitlyn Wojtowicz, vice president of public affairs for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey, praised New Jersey’s new laws but said there was still work to be done to ensure all women had equal access to reproductive care.

“All aspects of reproductive health care are inextricably linked,” she said, calling for the state to require insurance coverage of abortion care with no out-of-pocket costs. “We will continue our advocacy to ensure that anyone’s ability to get the care that they need doesn’t depend on their insurance coverage, their income or their immigration status.”

On Friday, Murphy called the Supreme Court’s decision one of the “most backwards and disastrous decisions” in its history and said he was committed to upholding reproductive freedoms in the state for women across the country.

“To those states whose enmity towards a woman’s right to an abortion has now turned into outright hostility and who will attempt to use the court’s already egregious ruling to prosecute a woman for having the audacity to practice autonomy over her body, we say: ‘No way, no how, not here,’” Murphy said.

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