Those who follow closely the deliberations and decisions of the United States Supreme Court are sending a warning to news viewers everywhere: The US Supreme Court within the next six months is likely to overturn the landmark decision in the case of Roe v. Wade. Such a reversal will effectively end all federal protection for a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion.
Roe v Wade was the 1973 US Supreme Court decision that found a federal protection for a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion, free from state interference, under a “penumbra of privacy” existing under the Ninth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The High Court, in a nutshell, found that this right of choice would exist until the end of the second trimester, to wit, the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. The rationale of the 24-week date is that it marks the beginning of “fetal viability;” i.e.; the ability of a fetus to survive outside the uterus.
The current Supreme Court, five of whose nine justices are conservative Republican jurists, three appointed by former President Donald Trump, are about to hear appeals to overturn Roe v. Wade. These appeals are part and parcel of pleadings to uphold the constitutionality of laws passed in Texas and Mississippi limiting the right of choice to far less than the current 24 weeks (Texas- six weeks, Mississippi 15 weeks).
Every indication is that the High Court will overturn Roe v. Wade. Once this case is reversed, it will be up to the states to pass legislation codifying in statute the current 24-week abortion choice period provided by Roe. A federal constitutional amendment or statute could provide this protection, but passage at the federal level is viewed to be an impossibility.
The political outcry in the nation among women voters in particular is likely to be monumental. And the eyes of the women of the nation will turn towards the state governments – in particular, New Jersey. In the Garden State, there is currently pending a Reproductive Freedom Act, which in its current form would provide an unlimited right to abortion up until the end of the 40 weeks of a normal pregnancy, plus substantial insurance coverage.
But no matter. The Reproductive Freedom Act will be amended to provide for New Jerseyans at least the same abortion choice protections provided by Roe. It will then be passed by both houses, and signed by Governor Phil Murphy by June, 2022.
The newly enacted legislation will mark the first restoration of reproductive freedom rights since the forthcoming reversal of Roe v Wade. And it will mark a significant development in the 2024 Democratic presidential sweepstakes.
After Phil Murphy was reelected as governor on November 2 by a far lesser margin than expected, the conventional wisdom was that his chances of being a credible candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2024 had been eliminated. Yet if the passage of the New Jersey Reproductive Freedom Act unfolds as stated above, Phil Murphy will become a passionately regarded hero among women in the national electorate – a victorious defender of women’s rights, specifically in the area of reproductive freedom.
If Joe Biden does not seek renomination, a genuine possibility given the president’s current age of 79, Phil Murphy’s newly found idealized status among women voters will result in his being in the top rank of potential 2024 Democratic presidential nominees. In the words of the famed late Chicago political writer Mike Royko, I may be wrong in this belief, but I doubt it.
Alan Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.