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New Jersey Enacts Confidentiality Law Endorsed by Professor David S. Cohen

Professor David S. Cohen

July 31, 2019

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has signed a law expanding privacy protections for reproductive health care workers and patients for which Professor David S. Cohen had testified.

The law expands an existing state program that allowed sexual assault and stalking victims to keep their addresses secret, safeguarding the privacy of patients and care providers at reproductive health care clinics from those who might harass or threaten them.

Cohen had testified in favor of the measure at a hearing of the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee in March, explaining that California had previously adopted the Safe at Home program that allows those who fear for their safety to keep their home address confidential.

Previously, Cohen had provided details about the California law in the book he co-authored, “Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism,” which Oxford University Press published in 2015. Based on interviews with scores of abortion providers across the U.S., the book provided a chronicle of the dangers and threats encountered by those who volunteer or work in facilities that provide reproductive services.

While giving a talk about the book in northern New Jersey with co-author Krysten Connon, ‘12, Cohen had inspired the leader of a Unitarian social action committee to spearhead a campaign to enact similar legislation in the Garden State.

The New Jersey bill passed unanimously in the state Senate by 37-0-0 and in the Assembly by a 75-0-0 vote.

As a result of the law, the state will assign individuals who face abuse, threats or harassment a substitute address for record-keeping in lieu of their actual residence. The individuals’ actual address is available only to government program staff and law enforcement.