Changes in NJ abortion rules filed by state medical board

Currently only licensed doctors can perform surgical abortions in New Jersey. But rule changes under consideration by the state’s Board of Medical Examiners could provoke a backlash by letting other medical professionals — like nurse practitioners, physicians assistants and midwives — do simple, in-office surgical abortions using a suction device. It’s a procedure usually done during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy.

“We insert a small vacuum inside the uterus and empty the contents to end the pregnancy. It really takes about five to 10 minutes to provide this procedure, and it has an impeccable safety rating,” said Dr. Kristyn Brandi, board chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health.

She says trained clinicians can already administer medical abortions in pill form, but that they’re fully capable of doing surgical abortions.

“This is done in other states, and done very safely. People like advanced practice nurses, physician assistants, certified midwives are experts in their respective fields, and that includes for reproductive health care, like abortion care,” Brandi said.

Twelve other states permit it. The CDC says more than 90% of U.S. abortions in 2016 occurred in the first trimester. The University of California San Francisco says its 2013 study concluded, “First trimester abortions are just as safe when performed by trained nurse practitioners, physician assistants and certified nurse midwives as when conducted by physicians …”

Planned Parenthood’s Kaitlyn Wojtowicz says the proposed rule changes would also permit in-office abortions beyond 14 weeks. She claims, especially during the pandemic, there’s a shortage of doctors to perform abortions. New Jersey logged more than 41,000 procedures in 2017. She notes advance practice clinicians can step in.

“This is well within their medical scope of practice. They would be trained up, of course, and we know that there are places around New Jersey where there are limited doctors and limited providers,” Wojtowicz said.

Right to Life’s Marie Tasy claims that instead of introducing legislation and encouraging robust debate on the issue, the board will forestall protest by simply posting rule changes in the New Jersey Register where people may submit comments. She called it payback after Planned Parenthood’s political action committee contributed $100,000 to the Democratic Governors Association, chaired by Gov. Phil Murphy.

“Obviously this another move or endeavor by the Murphy administration to satisfy Planned Parenthood and his abortion supporters in time for his re-election campaign. It’s very sad,” Tasy said. “And we have to remember of course in every abortion a baby’s beating heart stops.”

Tasy hopes a public outcry might block the rule changes. But Planned Parenthood said it’s about health care, not politics.