New Jersey Acting Attorney General Matt Platkin wants to make it clear: “Abortion remains legal in New Jersey.” To make sure that those who seek an abortion in the Garden State are protected, he announced the creation of a “Reproductive Rights Strike Force.”
The team is comprised of several officials across multiple divisions and offices within the Attorney General’s Office and state police.
Calling the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade “a devastating setback for women’s rights,” Platkin said the strike force will ensure that new state laws protecting abortion access will be enforced “to the full extent possible.”
“[We’ll] use every available resource to protect access to abortion care in New Jersey,” he said in a news release.
Roxanne Sutocky, community engagement director of The Women’s Center in Cherry Hill, commended Platkin for forming the strike force.
“We think that it’s an important countermeasure to the new abortion landscape that we are experiencing in this country after the fall of Roe,” she said. “I think as long as it is a collaborative response, it can be really effective in creating a safe community of abortion care provision for our state.”
The strike force will come up with strategies to protect access to reproductive health and abortion care for everyone, regardless of whether they are state residents or not. It will also enforce protections against those who threaten or intimidate those who seek care.
Sutocky said their clinic has increased security in the last couple of weeks.
“These anti-abortion [picketers], I call them extremists, bring signs to our health care center that do make offensive references to things like lynchings,” she said, adding their presence “is far from a peaceful use of First Amendment freedom of speech. They sometimes use other explicit racist imagery to try to intimidate patients and staff.”
She adds that there has been an influx of applications to be volunteer clinic escorts.
“We have been really skilled in utilizing the support of compassionate and trained community members to help ensure that folks can access the community,” Sutocky said.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act into law last January, codifying abortion rights into state law. In recent weeks, Gov. Murphy signed a couple of bills protecting patients and providers from being extradited to states like Texas where abortion is either severely restricted or outright banned.
Sutocky, who is also part of the THRIVE NJ coalition, praised the “rapid mobilization” of the legislature in response to the Supreme Court’s decision. But more needs to be done, she adds, especially when it comes to protecting providers and patients from civil lawsuits like the ones allowed in Texas, where private citizens can sue providers and anyone involved “in aiding or abetting” an abortion.
“I really would encourage the lawmakers who are taking this issue on to be communicating with the folks that are closest to this work,” said Sutocky. “We have protected the right to abortion, which is a great first step. And we’ve taken some measures to increase safety for abortion seekers and abortion providers. But we know that there are still significant outstanding barriers when it comes to affordability of services.”