Murphy plan to expand abortion access in N.J. unlikely to pass, top Democratic lawmaker says

Published: Jun. 16, 2022

New Jersey’s top state lawmaker said Thursday that proposals Gov. Phil Murphy is seeking to further expand access to abortion in the Garden State don’t have enough support to clear the state Legislature.

Asked if the legislation is unlikely to pass, state Senate President Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, said “yes.”

“There’s not enough votes,” Scutari told reporters at the Statehouse in Trenton.

That’s even though Murphy’s fellow Democrats control both houses of the Legislature.

Scutari also said lawmakers are still “evaluating” a package of measures Murphy wants to further tighten New Jersey’s already strict gun laws. The governor has amplified his push for the bills in the wake of the recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Texas.

“We’re looking at them bill by bill, making sure we bring common-sense gun solutions to the people of New Jersey to ensure the bills that we pass could have an impact on gun violence,” Scutari said. “That’s what we want to see. Not just bills to pass bills. But bills that are focused on a specific issue that could actually solve issues in our society.”

Murphy, a progressive Democrat considered a possible presidential candidate if President Biden doesn’t run in 2024, has faced resistance from some Democratic lawmakers on both the abortion and gun bills — especially in the wake of a November election that saw the party lose seven seats in the Legislature to Republicans. All bills have to be passed by both the state Senate and Assembly before the governor could decide whether to sign them into law.

Murphy and lawmakers enacted a law in January to make sure abortion remains legal in New Jersey even if the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion across the nation. A draft ruling was leaked in May showing the court is now on the verge of reversing the famous ruling.

But the Legislature also rejected more sweeping provisions that Murphy wanted in that law to make access to abortions more open.

The new proposals would restore some of what was cut and go further.

They would mandate private insurance coverage for abortion with no co-pays in the state, create a $20 million Reproductive Health Fund with $15 million for an abortion care clinical training programs and $5 million for security guards and security equipment to protect abortion facilities from attacks. They would also protect people who seek abortions by allowing people from other states who come to New Jersey seeking abortions to counter sue if they have been prosecuted or sued in their home state.

“Abortion is health care and health care decisions should be left up to the individual,” Murphy said last month. “Your body belongs to you. I do not know how to be more clear.”

Sources told NJ Advance Media last month the new proposals appeared unlikely to pass. Scutari was definitive Thursday.

The Senate president said he personally has “always voted in favor of a woman’s right to choose — virtually any bill that’s come before this caucus, but I can only speak for myself.”

“We’ve won this debate, and the debate’s settled,” Scutari said. “New Jersey is an excellent place to be a woman and have a right to choose, be able to have access to all the care they need here. New Jersey already affords that.”

The leader of the Legislature’s lower chamber, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, told NJ Advance Media last month that leaders will put the bill “through the process of being thorough and thoughtful and we’ll make a decision.”

Meanwhile, Murphy has called on the Legislature to pass a series of new gun-control bills — including ones that would require people to pass gun safety classes to buy firearms in the state, change how firearm owners are required to store their guns here, ban the future sales of .50 caliber guns in the state, increase the age people can buy shotguns from 18 to 21 here, and make it easier for the state to challenge gunmakers in court, among other moves.

New Jersey has the second-most stringent gun laws in the U.S., after California, according to rankings by the Gifford Law Center. Murphy and lawmakers had already enacted two packages of gun-control laws in recent years. This would be the third.

”We have one of strongest gun safety realities in America, but it can be stronger,” Murphy said in a radio interview interview last month. “All these bills would contribute to a safer New Jersey.”

Legislative sources told NJ Advance Media last week that lawmakers were considering how to pass at least some of the package, including making changes to bills to make them easier to pass.

One bill, which would allow the state attorney general to pursue civil action against gun manufacturers and dealers over shootings In New Jersey, was approved by a Senate committee on Monday.

Scutari said Thursday “there are definitely some worthwhile bills” in the package.

“We’re discussing them en mass right now,“ he added. “This is an ongoing dialogue.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-06-17 02:55:43 -0700