The State Board of Medical Examiners yesterday voted to propose amendments to its rules to expand access to reproductive health care and to repeal outdated rules that place medically unwarranted restrictions on abortion in New Jersey.
The board unanimously agreed to propose several changes to its regulations to remove barriers to care that do not offer corresponding health benefits.
The proposed regulatory changes will be published in the New Jersey Register in the coming months, at which time the public will have an opportunity to comment on the proposal.
Key aspects of the proposed regulatory changes 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 (in addition to medication-based termination of pregnancy, which is already permitted); 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 board’s vote to propose the changes follows the recommendations of a board subcommittee empaneled in December 2018 to examine New Jersey’s current regulations in light of both advances in the field of abortion care and recent case law.
Medically unnecessary rules that create barriers and place undue burdens on individuals seeking abortion care have been struck down by the United States Supreme Court.
The subcommittee reviewed rigorous, nationally-recognized medical and public health studies demonstrating that general rules governing health care procedures are sufficient to secure health and safety and that certain early abortion procedures can safely be performed by non-physician clinicians.
Such studies also note that medically unnecessary over-regulation of abortion itself creates public heath harms through disruptions in access to essential care. Based on such evidence, other states have moved to similarly expand access to reproductive health services.
“We applaud the board for moving to expand access to reproductive health care services, based on its careful consideration and assessment of the medical evidence,” said Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal. “The board’s evidence-based modernization of its rules will bring New Jersey into line with states across the country that have already taken action to increase access to quality care.”
“The right to make her own decisions about sex, abortion, and other reproductive matters goes to the heart of freedom for every woman,” said Lisa McCormick, “With this step, New Jersey is knocking down barriers to women’s freedom, eradicating the unnatural stigma associated with abortion and showing that the procedure is simple and safe.”
A majority of states still require that abortions be performed by physicians but a growing number states are adopting laws similar to New Jersey’s proposed change even while others are seeking to skirt legal protections extended by Roe v. Wade.
McCormick said the right to choose an abortion is a private matter that is protected by the U.S, Constitution, and expanding access is a good thing but she warned that the Supreme Court is considering another threat to abortion rights in a case where the Trump administration is trying to force women to have unnecessary surgeries.
“If the Court follows the Trump administration’s logic in in Food and Drug Administration v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, many women could lose access to the safest form of abortion,” said McCormick. “Hopefully, the court will relax FDA-imposed rules requiring health providers to dispense in person the drug mifepristone, which is commonly used in medication abortions.”
The Division of Consumer Affairs’ staff supports 51 professional and occupational licensing boards that together license approximately 720,000 professionals working in the State.
The boards, whose members are appointed by the Governor, are responsible for promulgating and enforcing rules governing professional and occupational standards.
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