Vice President Kamala Harris praised New Jersey’s abortion protections during her appearances at the NAACP’s annual conference on Monday, pitting the state’s rules against those of some Republican states that have sought to criminalize the procedure since the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
“What we see across the country are so-called extremist leaders passing laws in an effort to criminalize public health professionals, punishing women for making intimate and private decisions,” Harris said. , a Democrat, during a panel discussion. with state officials and other leaders.
New Jersey’s abortion laws have thus far been unaffected by the High Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In January, Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill codify New Jersey’s abortion protections, which previously relied on case law, into law. Under this law, the Department of Banking and Insurance will eventually make a recommendation on whether insurers should be required to cover abortions.
Earlier this month, Governor signed separate measures which blocked the release of abortion-related medical records, prohibited cooperation with abortion investigations launched in other states, and prohibited the extradition of persons to New Jersey on abortion-related charges.
“We will not extradite patients who obtain abortion care services, and we will not punish physicians who provide abortion care and reproductive health services that are legal in New Jersey,” Acting Attorney General Matt Platkin said during Monday’s roundtable.
President Joe Biden signed an executive order earlier this month to underscore White House support for abortion access, increase contraceptive availability and ensure other protections, such as legal protections for health professionals who perform abortions when pregnancy complications threaten a mother’s life.
This order — coupled with new guidelines from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on a 1986 federal law called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) — could allow abortions to protect the mother’s life even in localities that have banned the procedure without exceptions, said Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the federal administrator who oversees Medicare and Medicaid.
“To be clear, if a patient has an emergency medical condition and an abortion is the treatment for that condition – for example, an ectopic pregnancy where the pregnancy is outside the uterus and could rupture at any time – then EMTALA prevents any direct conflicting law or state mandate that would otherwise prohibit such processing,” she said.
Harris added that the Biden administration is seeking to codify Roe nationally, but such efforts will almost certainly be defeated by Republican opposition in the Senate.
The vice president urged her fellow Democrats to get to the polls in November, when all members of the House of Representatives, 35 Senate seats and countless local, county and state positions will be on the ballot. vote. Abortion restrictions elsewhere in the country have been approved by state-level lawmakers, she noted.
“These elections will matter at all levels. Who your district attorney is will be important. Who your governor is will matter. Who your Attorney General is will be important. Who is the Secretary of State will matter,” she said.
Although Democrats applauded Harris’ visit, it received a colder reception from Republicans and abortion opponents.
Marie Tasy, executive director of New Jersey Right to Life, accused the vice president’s attention of being misplaced. Instead of boosting abortion access, Tasy said, the state should focus on supporting organizations that encourage women to carry their pregnancies to term and, sometimes, provide postpartum assistance.
“New Jersey doesn’t have an access problem. We have an abortion problem, and we have to help women in those situations and crisis pregnancies, and we don’t help them by telling them to kill the child in their womb,” Tasy said. “We help them by giving them material support, financial support, nappies, clothes. This is how we help women, and this is the work that pro-life crisis pregnancy centers have been doing for 49 years.
Others saw Harris’ visit, seen as Biden’s average approval rating dropped below 39%as a self-inflicted political wound that would bring more energy to New Jersey’s GOP electorate.
“I will say this not only about the vice president but about the Biden administration: keep sending them to the state of New Jersey,” said Sen. Michael Testa (R-Cumberland). “It will ensure that more and more Republicans will be elected.”
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