New Jersey Court Upholds Family Cap Law Promoting Abortion
by Steven Ertelt
August 5, 2003
Trenton, NJ (LifeNews.com) — The New Jersey Supreme Court yesterday unanimously upheld a law that denies extra benefits to women who have additional children while they are on public assistance.
The law has divided pro-life and pro-family groups. Some pro-family groups oppose welfare and extra public funding for welfare moms, while pro-life groups say the family caps have been proven to encourage poor women to have abortions.
The court, in a 7-0 decision, upheld the family caps.
"This case is not about a woman’s right to choose whether and when to bear children, but rather, about whether the state must subsidize that choice," Chief Justice Deborah Poritz wrote in the opinion. "We hold today that the state is not required to provide additional cash assistance when a woman chooses to bear a child."
New Jersey was the first state to impose the limit in August 1993, and 22 other states have since adopted similar laws. Before the law took effect, a woman with one child would get an extra $104 a month in benefits if she had a second child.
Critics say the law is unconstitutional because it forces women to choose not have have a baby, a decision that can ultimately lead to abortion. According to a 1998 Rutgers University study commissioned by the state, there were 14,000 fewer births and 1,400 more abortions among women receiving welfare in New Jersey in the first four years of the family cap law.
Serrin Foster, the President of Feminists for Life, says the law is "a huge loss for women and children."
"This is punitive not only to the mother but to the children," Foster told LifeNews.com. "It is coercive and will result in poor women having abortions."
"They are not solving the root causes of the problem. The emphasis should be on child support and not eliminating children," Foster explained.
The court acknowledged the law forces women receiving welfare to consider the economics of having an additional child, but ultimately, "the decision to bring a child to term or to have an abortion remains wholly with the woman."
Marie Tasy, legislative director of Right to Life New Jersey, agreed and said the ruling indicated the state’s lack of regard for poor women and their children.
One of the two plaintiffs, a welfare mother identified only as Sojourner A., said the policy compelled her to have two abortions because she could not afford to support the children.
"Shame on New Jersey for placing women in this position," Tasy said. "The empirical data proves that abortions increase when states fund abortion for women and impose family caps. They send a terrible message the poor woman and her children are not valued by society."
David O’Steen, National Right to Life’s executive director, agreed.
"It is a tragedy that New Jersey will pay to abort the children of poor women, but will deny assistance for children caught by the family cap if their mothers choose life," he told LifeNews.com.
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