Protests and legislative pressure expected as N.J. prepares for fallout of abortion ruling
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday that women no longer have a constitutional right to abortion, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy called on lawmakers to pass legislation now in the pipeline that would expand abortion access here.
Murphy, speaking at his office in Trenton, singled out one bill that would protect women who come to New Jersey for abortions from states looking to ban or severely restrict the procedure.
“It very explicitly protects not only the woman but anyone who has anything to do with procedure. So that’s the Uber driver, obviously the health care provider, and anybody else,” Murphy said. “I continue to feel strongly that we need to take steps in that direction. And I hope that can be by statute.”
Thirteen states already have “trigger bans,” written to take effect as soon as Roe v. Wade is overturned and ban abortions within 30 days.
“Where we can, we will act to protect the rights and privacy of any woman who comes to New Jersey from states in which their rights are now eviscerated, if not entirely erased,” Murphy said.
Murphy has struggled to get enough support for his plans to expand abortion access in New Jersey, with some members of his own party questioning why they are needed.
Friday’s decision by a majority of the Supreme Court’s nine justices will allow each state to set its own abortion laws. Murphy, a Democrat, blasted the decision as “infuriating and disappointing.”
“Unlike the United States Supreme Court, New Jersey will always stand on the side of our women. We will never stand between them and their doctors,” he said.
The ruling drew mixed reactions around the state.
In Piscataway, Marie Tasy celebrated. As the director of the New Jersey Right to Life organization, the pro-life advocate hopes New Jersey will begin to follow the “trend towards life.”
“This is a renewed sense of energy and urgency,” Tasy said. “It’s undeniable that a child in the womb is a human being and is deserving of protection, and we do believe that eventually New Jersey will get there. This is something that’s going to be part of a national conversation.”
Republican Joe Pennacchio shares some of the same sentiment. The Morris County lawmaker has introduced anti-abortion bills that would ban the procedure after 20 weeks, require physicians to offer patients an ultrasound in the two days before an abortion, and prohibit the use of fetal tissue from elective surgeries for research.
He’s not confident Friday’s ruling will spur any major changes in New Jersey, where the right for a person to choose an abortion was codified into law by the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act in January.
“The basic fundamental principle of terminating a human life inside the body is not a constitutional right, so it can certainly be regulated — like most other regulations — by the state,” he said. “Unfortunately for New Jersey, I don’t think this is going to make much of a difference.”
Anjali Mehrotra, president of New Jersey’s chapter of the National Organization for Women, said abortion rights advocates regard the new ruling as a call to action.
“Women know what’s at stake. This is only the beginning for this Supreme Court. We know they are coming after marriage equality and contraception next. Their attempts to seize control over constitutional rights are boundless,” Mehrotra said in a statement.
She added: “We are up to the challenge. We have seen in 2017 and 2018 in New Jersey that women’s political power is huge and it can only grow wider and stronger. We will vote in ever-increasing numbers to elect, at every level, legislators that share our values.”
Protests both for and against abortion are planned for around the state all weekend.
Abortion rights activists plan rallies at 6 p.m. Friday at Spiotta Park in South Orange, at New Brunswick’s City Hall, at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Cherry Hill, and at Riverside Gardens Park in Red Bank.
New Jersey Right to Life advocates will rally at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Statehouse in Trenton.