North NJ DSA

by Angelica L.

On June 29, 2022, the Jersey City Council unanimously declared the city a “right-to-choose sanctuary city”, where “anyone should have a right to abortion, on-demand, and without question.” This declaration signaled a promise by the Council to protect people who give birth. Campbell Charshee, a member of the Medicare For All Working Group, attended the meeting to urge the Council to follow through on their promise by establishing a free, non-means-tested abortion clinic. Because the average cost of an abortion is $549 and 13.5% of Hudson County is uninsured, Charshee explained why a free abortion clinic is so vital to the working class of Jersey City. In spite of these facts, no free or affordable abortion clinics exist in Jersey City. If the Council is to protect the right to choose, they must protect that right for everyone, including those who do not have the financial means to make that choice.

Similar to New Jersey’s latest Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act, the JC resolution fails to protect access for folks who cannot afford an abortion. For the many Hudson County residents without insurance, the 2021 median price for a procedural abortion was $625. Abortion pills, which constituted 39% of all abortions in 2017 and are available to order through telehealth websites like Aid Access, cost on average $568. These costs are prohibitive. The Federal Reserve estimates that ⅓ of U.S. residents do not have $400 readily available for emergency use. For those with private insurance, only 4 in 10 people can use their insurance to cover the procedure.

Existing safety nets are also hindered by income requirements and limited resources. New Jersey Medicaid covers all abortion costs, but pregnant people must meet income requirements and possess documentation for permanent residence in the U.S. Around 84,000 of Hudson County’s residents are undocumented and cannot benefit from this service. Another financial assistance option for NJ residents is the New Jersey Abortion Access Fund. However, funds only go to four abortion clinics, the nearest being in Englewood and Hackensack; the fund also does not cover for the full cost of an abortion. Latinx, and Black folks most are affected by these barriers to receiving health coverage in New Jersey. As affordable options remain limited, many low-income folks may put off paying for necessities like utilities, rent, or food to cover out-of-pocket expenses; they may also delay seeking care to a later time in their pregnancy, when more complex procedures are needed, the cost of abortion increases, and the number of providers decreases.

Many Hudson County residents seeking abortion services, especially those without a car, also face difficulties in finding convenient care. There are no abortion clinics in Hudson County, but in the Heights neighborhood of Jersey City, there is a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) that spreads misinformation about abortion with the aim of discouraging its clients from seeking abortion services. If someone without a car lived in the Journal Square neighborhood of Jersey City, they could take a twenty minute bus ride to a center they may have passed before and already knew about. Meanwhile, the Jersey City HHS website shares no information on nearby trusted abortion clinics, and if someone chooses to visit the nearest Planned Parenthood in Elizabeth, the same person would have to take several trains and/or buses for a trip that can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes. This distance can also increase if someone has a preferred provider who speaks their language and makes them feel comfortable, or if someone requires a surgical procedure (the nearest clinics that offer these are in Newark, Union, NYC, and Montclair, with only the latter accepting abortion funds).

With these disparities in abortion access in mind, Charshee made his request to the JC Council, and now, the Medicare For All Working Group is building a campaign in Jersey City for a free, non-means-tested abortion clinic, the distribu- tion of abortion pills as a free, non-surgical option, and the establishment of a fund to support all those seeking reproductive amnesty. We want to put pressure on the JC Council through letters and op-eds, especially as a possible avenue for funding a clinic through the recently proposed A-4350, which would allocate $20 million of state funds toward expanding reproductive access. Recently, we connected with the Atlanta DSA, who was able to push it city government to allocate $300,000 to the National Network of Abortion Funds. The chapter brought together hundreds of people to sign their petition through canvassing and coalition building, highlighting the power of on-the-ground work.

With the Atlanta DSA’s model of engagement, we are looking to partner with other organizations involved in reproductive justice. Our chapter has already connected with the Abortion Justice Committee of North Jersey, a grassroots organization formed after the Dobbs decision to improve access to abortion in North Jersey. Our organizations share similar priorities and we plan to attend each other’s meetings in the next month to facilitate collaboration and build power together. We look forward to learning alongside other reproductive justice organizations who have been in the struggle for abortion rights long before us.

With the proposal of A-4350, the passing of the right-to-choose sanctuary city resolution in Jersey City, and just recently, a similar sanctuary city declaration in Hoboken, this moment is crucial in the fight for a clinic that provides abortion services to everyone regardless of income, ethnicity, insurance coverage, or immigration status. We invite anyone who supports a public abortion clinic in Jersey City to write a letter or op-ed to a New Jersey or Hudson County media outlet. We especially would love to hear from people who have or can give birth and those who have and can seek abortion care. If you would like to join our M4A WG in other efforts such as conducting research, canvassing, and coalition building, we meet every Monday at 6pm. Abortion is healthcare, and we will absolutely demand it, for free, without apology. Join us here.

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