by Julia T.
On July 24th, New Jerseyans took to the streets to protest the reversal of Roe v. Wade. Chapter members rallied outside the office of Senator Bob Mendendez, who did not sign a letter that many of his Democratic colleagues did imploring President Biden to take strong action to protect abortion. Democrats are racing to maintain control of congress ahead of the midterms, but many in office have dragged their feet on reproductive rights for years. That is why speakers outside of Mendez’s office discussed how it was imperative to do more than vote in November.
In New Jersey, Bill A-4350 has been advanced in the state legislature to appropriate 20 million dollars in abortion care, which would help people from New Jersey get abortions, as well as those coming from areas where the procedure is now illegal. Unfortunately, passing common-sense legislation on abortion has been a challenge even in a blue state like New Jersey.
Governor Phil Murphy has tried to strengthen abortion laws by resurrecting provisions from the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act passed this year. He is facing pushback from Republicans and his own party: Senate President Nick Scutari and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin have cast doubt that these expansions will pass, despite having the power to whip votes.
“When Roe was overturned, my email was flooded with fundraising emails from the Democratic Party. They are out of touch on the issue of abortion. They continue to use outdated language by only framing this as a private issue that impacts women. They only care about using this issue to advance themselves in the polls, but have done little to protect abortion.“ says Bella, an organizer involved in reproductive justice fights in New Jersey and New York.
Bella added that the criminalization of self-managed abortion and deportations of people seeking abortion has been going on long before the overturning of Roe. National policies like codifying Roe into law and repealing the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funds from being used for abortion services, could have ensured stronger rights for those seeking abortions. However, when the Democrats have controlled all three branches of government, they have still failed to pass these policies.
Even in NJ where abortions remain legal, there are over 50 “crisis pregnancy centers,” which masquerade as abortion clinics but attempt to intimidate patients out of the procedure. A concerted effort is required to shut down these centers and the right-wing organizations which fund them. Abortion does not have to be explicitly illegal when crisis centers and TRAP laws (targeted restrictions on abortion providers) are used to prevent people from obtaining abortions.
Beyond policy, reproductive justice also includes on-the-ground support for patients, networks for abortion access, and mutual aid. We need to continue to engage in direct action by marching in the streets, confronting politicians, and protecting our clinics. Unions must make pledges to support abortion access for workers as attacks on abortion rights are attacks on the entire working class.
The stripping of Roe threatens the civil rights of everyone and shows that progress cannot be taken for granted. Attacks on bodily autonomy harm people who are poor, people of color, and queer and trans people to an even greater extent. One way to find common cause in our struggles is through a mass organization like DSA that ties reproductive justice to other material and social issues through an intersectional approach.
“We have a platform as socialists which we can use to rewrite the course of abortion, destigmatize the procedure by speaking about it publicly and openly, and tie the issue to worker’s and worker’s rights, environmental issues, housing, and so on.” says Bella.
So far, the North Jersey DSA has raised $2,500 for the National Network of Abortion Funds through a Bowl-a-Rama fundraiser, hosted a discussion with activist Jenny Brown, and is planning community teach-ins. The Medicare For ALL Working Group is laying the foundation for a publicly-funded abortion clinic in Hudson County. Building coalitions with groups already doing reproductive justice work and clinic defense in and around our communities, such as NYC for Abortion Rights, an abolitionist, socialist-feminist collective, will be necessary in this fight.
Through organizing and community support, we can build the power needed to challenge our current political and economic conditions.