Special to Montclair Local

As we near what may be the last anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, New Jersayans are celebrating Gov. Phil Murphy’s action to codify the right to abortion by signing S49/A6260 into state law.

This new legislation ensures decisions about contraception, abortion and carrying a pregnancy to term are protected in state statute, should the high court overturn or further weaken Roe.

While the new law protects our reproductive rights, we need to do more to ensure that every New Jerseyan can access reproductive health care. Today, far too many New Jerseyans encounter tremendous barriers when they seek reproductive health care services, including prenatal care, birth control and abortion. For instance, even though the new law requires the Department of Banking and Insurance to review insurance coverage of abortion in New Jersey, there is no requirement to address insurance disparities, or for coverage to be provided to immigrants living in the country without authorization. We have to do more to ensure that all people who need it have access to reproductive health care — including individuals who lack insurance coverage or whose insurance does not cover abortion care, and community members who are undocumented.

The bottom line: Abortion is a right that too many New Jerseyans cannot exercise. It’s not enough to protect the legality of abortion; we must make abortion — and all reproductive health care — accessible too.

Make no mistake; access to the full range of reproductive health care services is a public health issue. Reproductive health is integral to an individual’s overall health. Just as importantly, access to reproductive health care impacts a person’s safety, economic opportunity and ability to participate equally in society. New Jerseyans must be able to make their personal health decisions about birth control, pregnancy and abortion — not only because every person should be able to exercise that right but also because it’s good for our state. Families and communities thrive when there is access to reproductive health care.

In fact, at Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan New Jersey, access to reproductive health care is what we do best. Across Essex, Hudson, and Passaic counties under the leadership of CEO Roslyn Rogers Collins,  Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan New Jersey serves more than 20,000 patients annually. With health centers in East Orange, Montclair, Newark and Paterson, it offers affordable, non-judgemental health care including annual exams, birth control, breast exams, gender-affirming hormone therapy, HIV testing and treatment, medication abortion, and STI testing and treatment. Walk into our waiting rooms any day of the week and you will find a wide variety of people receiving high-quality health care, many of whom could not access this care without Planned Parenthood.

New Jersey is a leader in reproductive rights in the United States, and legal abortion is now indisptuably the law of the land, yet there remains much we can do to make these rights accessible. In this new legislative session, incoming legislative leaders must build upon the new law by continuing to expand access to reproductive health care services by breaking down the financial and logistical barriers that keep care out of reach for so many New Jerseyans. Let us celebrate this victory, and then continue our advocacy for reproductive health, rights, justice, and access for all.

Erin M. Chung is director of communications for Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan New Jersey, which operates the Montclair Health Center on North Fullerton Avenue.


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