Just over one year ago, women across the nation mourned the loss of hard-fought and won rights that for nearly 50 years protected the reproductive autonomy of all Americans. When the Supreme Court issued its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, it dealt a devastating blow to a woman’s ability to access life-saving health care and to make personal family planning decisions.
As a result, 1 in 3 women of reproductive age in the United States find themselves living in states where access to critical care has been severely restricted or rendered completely unavailable as state legislatures move to implement dangerous abortion bans.
Women deserve access to comprehensive medical care; this includes the ability to safely and legally terminate a complicated, potentially fatal, or unwanted pregnancy. Paired with other reproductive health care options that have been under attack, such as efforts to restrict access to emergency contraceptives, health consequences have been dire for families in our most vulnerable communities.
We have heard horrifying accounts from across the country of women suffering because restrictive trigger laws were enacted in their home states immediately following the Dobbs decision. Women have been sent home to bleed for days following an incomplete miscarriage, denied access to abortion care for life-threatening pregnancy complications, and forced to travel out of state to receive critical care. There are countless stories like these.
I am exceedingly proud that in New Jersey we have upheld the rights of our residents at a time when many lawmakers across the country sought to strip women of reproductive choice. Because of our work, New Jerseyans have retained their fundamental rights to their privacy, their bodies, and their futures.
Last session, we proactively codified the right to reproductive freedom in New Jersey law with the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act. This meant that when the Dobbs decision overturned protections established by the Roe v. Wade ruling, the rights of our residents were not called into question.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision last June, we took further action to break down barriers to care and protect both patients and medical providers whom other states may seek to prosecute. The measures—which have been signed into law—prevent the extradition of patients and medical providers to other states for receiving or providing abortion care, safeguard the private medical histories of patients from being disclosed without consent, and enable women to access birth control without a prescription.
Recently, the State announced another victory in our efforts to expand access to critical care, ensuring nothing stands in the way of our residents exercising the right to choose. As a result of the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act, the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance has adopted new rules to require comprehensive abortion coverage as a part of the health benefits plans it regulates.
Women in this country fought for the rights that are now being taken away by extremists on the Supreme Court with a dangerous disregard for precedent. We see this for what it is: a direct attack on the fundamental liberties we have worked so hard to preserve. Our constituents have the right to make family planning decisions with their loved ones and trusted medical providers without unreasonable government interference.
I have always stood up for individuals’ rights to basic bodily autonomy, for their rights to medical privacy, and for their freedom to make decisions about their bodies without being penalized, stigmatized, or othered. We cannot allow our society to backslide, leaving future generations with fewer protections than their predecessors.
In New Jersey, Democrats have made it a priority to take action so our communities can continue to enjoy the rights they are entitled to and the care that they deserve.
To the women of New Jersey, I will never stop standing up for you.
This piece was originally published on NJ.com on October 17, 2023: https://www.nj.com/opinion/2023/10/assemblywoman-says-we-must-stand-up-for-the-women-of-new-jersey-opinion.html