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N.J. moves to codify abortion rights into state law ahead of Supreme Court vote

Norma McCorvey,

Norma McCorvey, "Jane Roe," left, and her attorney, Gloria Allred, hold hands as they leave the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, April 26, 1989, after sitting in on arguments in a Missouri abortion case that had the potential to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, file)

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Democratic lawmakers announced a plan Friday to codify the right to an abortion into state law, amid a growing concern the ruling in Roe v. Wade, which made abortion legal across the country, could be overturned.

The proposal came just days before the U.S. Senate is set to begin nomination hearings for President Trump’s third pick to the Supreme Court, which has grown increasingly conservative during his term.

“For anyone in New Jersey who, over the past few weeks or months has feared that their rights would be diminished or taken away, let me assure you: your body belongs to you,” said Gov. Phil Murphy during a Facebook Live event announcing the bill.

The Reproductive Freedom Act — sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen — would ensure that residents “have the right to make their own personal health decisions when it comes to birth control and pregnancy-related care, including abortion,” according to the press release.

It would also require private health insurance companies to cover birth control and abortion care with no out-of-pocket costs.

Marie Tasy, executive director of New Jersey Right to Life, said it was a “radical” proposal and that voters should get to have a say on such a monumental issue.

“It’s very disturbing, the direction that New Jersey is going in,” Tasy said. “We’re not surprised. We’re obviously disappointed and feel that this is really just an effort to appease the Democratic Party’s base before an election.” (Murphy is running for reelection next year.)

Trump’s nominee to fill the vacancy left by Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative judge who has said in the past that she opposes abortion. At her confirmation hearing for her current job as a federal judge, Coney Barrett said that Roe v. Wade was settled precedent, but she has said it is unclear how much leeway states will be given in restricting access to abortion.

If Barrett were confirmed by the Senate, there would be a clear conservative majority on the high court with the potential to reverse Roe v. Wade.

Although Barrett has said she would set aside her personal views when deciding cases, Democrats and progressives worry that the federal case law making abortion legal could be in danger, and have pushed for states to legalize the practice in case the federal protection disappears.

Murphy said that New Jersey would be the sixth state after Oregon, Washington, California, New York, and Delaware to enshrine the right to an abortion in state law.

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