Abortions rose in N.J. after Roe v. Wade fell, new study shows

An abortion rights protester at a rally in South Orange on Friday June 24, 2022.

by Dana DiFilippo, New Jersey Monitor

Legal abortions have risen 7 percent in New Jersey since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, even as they dropped 6 percent nationally, according to a new study undertaken to quantify how the landmark decision impacted abortion trends.

Analysis by the Society of Family Planning, a nonprofit that supports abortion and contraception research, confirmed what advocates on both sides of the issue had predicted — that abortion would surge in states that protected or strengthened abortion rights as other states used the court’s Dobbs decision to ban or restrict the procedure.

The study found that California continues to provide the most abortions nationally, at between 17,000 to 18,000 a month. New York ranked second, with 9,510 abortions reported in August.

New Jersey was sixth, with 4,060 abortions in August, up from 3,790 the month the Dobbs decision was issued.

New Jersey had 43 facilities that provided abortions in 2021, down from 50 in 2017, according to the Abortion Facility Database Project at the University of California at San Francisco.

New Jersey abortion rights advocates said they expected the post-Dobbs uptick — and prepared for it.

“To meet this increased need from patients across the country, we’re looking at expanding health center hours, adding evening hours, adding staff, and making sure we serve the patients who come through our doors because we never turn anyone away,” said Kaitlyn Wojtowicz, vice president of public affairs of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey.

Despite the rise in New Jersey, Marie Tasy of New Jersey Right to Life said the study did offer some “good news” for abortion foes — that abortions fell by about 5,400 nationally after Dobbs. And New Jersey’s spike was smaller than states like North Carolina, Kansas, and New York, where abortions rose 37%, 36%, and 12%, respectively, from April to August, Tasy added. A draft of the Dobbs decision leaked in May.

“While every abortion is a tragedy, the takeaway from the study is that New Jersey did not see the significant increases that New York and many other states experienced, despite the draconian efforts of our abortion-obsessed governor to make New Jersey an abortion safe haven,” Tasy said.

Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, has pushed the Legislature to expand access to abortion in the wake of the Dobbs decision, saying New Jersey will be “a beacon of freedom for every American woman.”

While abortions usually dip during the summer months, they generally have risen in the U.S. since 2017, an upward trend advocates attribute to the faltering economy, the pandemic, delayed childbearing, and decades-long declines in childbirth rates.

That makes the 6% drop in abortions nationally since Dobbs especially striking, researchers said. The study estimated about 79,620 abortions were performed in the U.S. in August, down from about 85,000 abortions a month before Dobbs.

The study did not track where patients traveled to or from for abortions, but noted that about 9% of patients left their home state for abortion care in 2020, and the Dobbs decision likely pushed that much higher.

Traveling for abortions can increase costs and delay the procedure later into a pregnancy, the study noted. Vulnerable people are disproportionately impacted, including young people, incarcerated people or people on parole whose travel is limited, immigrants, caregivers of small children or the elderly, and people who cannot take time off work, the study found.

“People shouldn’t have to travel for abortion care. They shouldn’t have to travel long distances to get the care that they need,” Wojtowicz said.

Even before Dobbs, New Jersey’s Democratic lawmakers worked to strengthen abortion access here, with mixed results.

Murphy signed one law in January codifying abortion rights and two others in July protecting patients and providers who get or give abortions here from criminal prosecutions by other states.

New Jersey officials in July launched a strike force tasked with guarding abortion access and patient confidentiality.

But an effort to require insurers to cover the procedure and create a $20 million fund to ensure abortion access has repeatedly stalled, with its Democratic supporters facing opposition from within their own party.

The state Department of Banking and Insurance is expected to issue a report by the end of the year on the impact of requiring insurers to cover abortion.

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