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The Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade  based on a leaked first-draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito.

If the document is accurate, such a decision would likely make abortion illegal in half the country.

What will that mean for people in New Jersey where the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act was signed into law in January?

We asked Glenmarie Matthews, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive health and director of the Reproductive Choice Program at New Jersey Medical School to break down the basics of the law.

Glennmarie Matthews
Glenmarie Matthews is director of the Reproductive Choice Program at New Jersey Medical School
Courtesy of Glenmarie Matthews

What is the New Jersey law modeled after? Does it cover restrictions that women could face if Roe v. Wade is overturned, such as bans on abortion after the first trimester?

The New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners voted in spring 2021 to repeal medically unnecessary regulations on abortion, removing significant barriers and expanding access across the state. The new act will ensure any other barriers in regulation are removed and will clean up outdated laws that have been deemed unenforceable by our courts. This will secure a future that safeguards reproductive health care and treats abortion like any other medical procedure.

If bans in other states are upheld by the Supreme Court, would the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act protect women traveling to New Jersey for a legal abortion?

The New Jersey Supreme Court has explicitly recognized the right to abortion under our state constitution and has held that this protection extends beyond the federal constitutional protection. Technically it would protect these women while in this state. However, this was not clearly addressed in the act and would need to be further addressed. It does however remove currently unenforceable statutory provisions, including the state’s so-called Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, which have both been declared unconstitutional by the courts. It also removes two existing criminal laws that are vague and could be used to criminalize some abortions or situations where a person has ended their own pregnancy.

Are abortions currently covered by insurance providers? And if so, what other resources are available to those seeking an abortion to defray those costs? What issues do you anticipate will arise if insurance providers in New Jersey no longer cover those costs?

Access to comprehensive health care, which includes abortion coverage, is critical to every person's health and well-being. ALL people should be free to care for themselves and their families; free to end or carry their pregnancies; and free to make decisions about their bodies.

Most insurance companies in New Jersey do pay for abortion.  However, the Affordable Care Act does not require health insurance plans to cover abortion services, like in-clinic abortion and the abortion pill. If a patient is uninsured, or lacks the appropriate insurance coverage, there are resources available to cover the costs. An example of this would be the costs covered by the National Abortion Federation (NAF).  The problem, however, is that not all providers and patients are aware of what would be considered a NAF site.

No longer providing insurance coverage for abortion would be a great loss to family planning within the state because many patients who require hospital-based procedures would not be able to afford the $10,000 it can cost for a D&C with anesthesia. This would force our patients to travel far for essential care that should be a right.

Some say that this act allows abortions to be legally performed right up until birth. Is that accurate?

This is not accurate. Currently, the law allows a person in New Jersey to access abortion care whenever they need it, including later in pregnancy, and this act does not alter it. A person’s health and specific circumstances, not political interference, should guide important medical decisions throughout their pregnancy.

However, no one performs abortion in the third trimester. Inflammatory claims about abortion later in pregnancy are a false portrayal of what abortion care is. The people spreading this disinformation have one thing in mind – to push abortion care out of reach. The goal of this act is to allow the people of New Jersey access to equal and fair family planning services, regardless of status. Most women have an abortion immediately after learning they are pregnant. Later terminations are done when a secondary maternal or fetal indication is diagnosed and are usually performed within the second trimester of pregnancy.

This article was updated on May 3.