Patch: Mikie Sherrill Hosts Panel On Women’s Rights, Abortion In Montclair

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill of the state’s 11th District hosted a panel with Planned Parenthood at the Montclair Health Center on North Fullerton Avenue. (U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill)

MONTCLAIR, NJ — Advocates for women’s rights in Essex County continue to discuss the next steps that the nation needs to take in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision on abortion.

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill of the state’s 11th District hosted a panel with Planned Parenthood at the Montclair Health Center on North Fullerton Avenue, gathering alongside several medical, legal and governmental experts. Watch the video below.

The topic? To discuss the current landscape in New Jersey for “protecting women’s rights and abortion.”

After the Supreme Court voted to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision in June, their ruling set off a firestorm of controversy across the nation. Now that the court has overturned the decisions, it will be up to states to decide the future of abortion within their own borders. 

In New Jersey, abortion access is protected by state law via the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act, which Gov. Phil Murphy signed earlier this year. 

But advocates for abortion rights in New Jersey have continued to push for better protections in other states. And they say that the Garden State can be a model for how to do that.

“In January, New Jersey codified the right to freedom of reproductive choice,” said senior deputy chief counsel to Gov. Phil Murphy Kate McDonnell, who was one of the panelists who spoke Monday.

McDonnell continued:

“Following the devastating ruling in Dobbs, New Jersey, led by Governor Murphy and many passionate lawmakers and advocates, acted quickly to enact two important pieces of legislation aimed at protecting patients and health care professionals who receive and provide care here. As we see this fundamental right under attack across our nation, New Jersey has emerged as a national model for states seeking to implement strong protections of abortion rights, and the Murphy Administration will continue to work to ensure that the right to reproductive choice is meaningful and accessible to everyone. It is an honor to sit alongside leaders who are fiercely dedicated to ensuring a woman’s right to bodily autonomy and unwavering in the fight for equal treatment under the law.”

Rhonda Nichols, medical director at Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan New Jersey (PPMNJ), said that as an obstetrician/gynecologist, she has firsthand experience of the reason why strong abortion rights laws are needed.

“I know firsthand the decision to have an abortion is one of the most difficult decisions a women can make in her lifetime,” Nichols said. “Each woman who makes this decision has gone through countless scenarios of how this happened and has entertained multiple options to no avail. It all culminates to the necessity of having either a medical or surgical abortion. To have this difficult decision politized; to have the procedure limited, banned, and criminalized is to deny a woman her rights to take care of herself and those who depend on her.”

“This decision should be made between the woman, her provider, and anyone she deems appropriate to enter in this discussion,” Nichols added. “This is the right of confidentiality and privacy which are basic tenets to anyone seeking a medical or surgical service. This is codified in the HIPAA laws.”

Other speakers included:

Roslyn Rogers Collins, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Metropolitan New Jersey – “PPMNJ is committed to providing reproductive health care including access to abortion to all seeking our services-as we have done for more than 90 years. Specialized support will be provided for those who may be traveling into New Jersey from states with bans and restrictions.”

Magda Schaler-Haynes, professor of health policy and management at Columbia University – “The Supreme Court’s revocation of the constitutional right to abortion undermines our basic right to bodily autonomy and creates a public health emergency. Without access to timely, affordable abortion care we will see dramatic, preventable exacerbation of health disparities across the United States. We cannot allow this to happen.”

Rep. Sherrill pointed out that she voted to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act to defend women’s reproductive rights and the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act to extend legal protections to Americans who utilize their constitutional freedom to travel to another state to seek an abortion. The congresswoman also voted for the Right to Contraception Act, which makes clear in federal law that individuals and married couples have the right to access contraception.

“Every woman deserves access to reproductive health services and the ability to make her own decisions about her health care,” Sherrill said. “In the face of unending attacks on reproductive freedom from extremist Republicans, including the dangerous national ban they proposed today, I will not give up the fight to protect safe abortion access, regardless of where you live.”