The New Jersey Legislature has been stalling on a bill called the Reproductive Freedom Act (S3030/A4848), which would expand access to those who choose to abort their pregnancy.
This issue is a top priority for Democrat Governor Phil Murphy who is up for re-election. Murphy claims that the Legislature will likely pass the bill in the upcoming lame duck session after Election Day. His opponent, GOP candidate Jack Ciattereli, is fiercely opposed to the bill, and notes that the Legislature is purposely stalling on the bill – because they vehemently oppose it.
Today, it seems that Governor Murphy is getting his way without support from the Legislature.
The State Board of Medical Examiners (“the Board”) voted unanimously today to adopt new rules to eliminate “medically unnecessary” regulations on abortion in New Jersey and to open new avenues for reproductive healthcare services across the state, Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck announced.
The Board’s action corresponds to a provision of the Reproductive Freedom Act which would also make additional changes to protect reproductive freedom and remove barriers to access to care.
Key aspects of the rule changes the Board voted to adopt today include:
• repealing the Termination of Pregnancy rule that singles out abortion care for targeted regulation by, among other things, • requiring that all terminations of pregnancy be performed only by a physician, and barring office-based terminations beyond 14 weeks gestation;
• clearing the path for Advanced Practice Nurses, Physician Assistants, and Certified Nurse Midwives and Certified Midwives to perform early aspiration terminations of pregnancy; and
• updating the regulations to integrate reproductive care within the generally applicable rules designed to ensure the safety of patients who undergo surgery or special procedures in an office setting.
The rule changes that the Board voted to accept today were first proposed in January 2021 and will take effect when the adoption notice is published in the New Jersey Register in the coming months.
The Board’s decision to adopt the regulatory changes follows the recommendations of a Board subcommittee empaneled in 2018 to study the Board’s current regulations in light of advances in the field of abortion care.
In determining that the current regulations are outdated, the Board considered nationally recognized medical and public health studies, which demonstrated that general rules governing health care procedures are sufficient to secure the health and safety and that certain early abortion procedures can safely be performed by non-physician clinicians.
Studies also indicate that medically unnecessary over-regulation of abortion itself creates public health harms by disrupting access to essential care.
By clearing the path for certain healthcare providers other than physicians to perform a termination of pregnancy, the rule changes could significantly expand access to reproductive care in New Jersey. Currently, there are approximately 11,956 Advanced Practice Nurses, 4,495 Physician Assistants, 393 Certified Nurse Midwives, and 18 Certified Midwives in the State who could become authorized to perform the procedure once the new regulations take effect.
“We commend the board for its decision to adopt meaningful regulatory changes regarding abortion care in New Jersey,” said Sean P. Neafsey, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “As a result of their efforts, thousands of qualified and trusted providers in our state will now be allowed to play a role in expanding abortion access and residents will have enhanced choices and more timely access to essential reproductive health care”.