Montclair and Essex County residents mobilize after overturning of Roe v. Wade
“‘What do we do when we’re under attack? Stand up! Fight Back!” was chanted by a crowd of over 100 people in a rally held Friday in South Orange over the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
In Montclair, residents stood on the corner of Bloomfield Avenue and Church Street with protest signs while drivers honked their horns in support as they passed by.
The court’s ruling prompted residents of Essex County and Montclair to quickly
mobilize on Friday afternoon. Despite Gov. Phil Murphy's condemnation of the ruling and his assurances to New Jerseyans that their right to reproductive health care and abortion will be protected, North Jersey residents felt the need to speak out.
Ali Fitzgibbons, a resident, wanted to do something as soon as she heard the news, and ended up at Bloomfield and Church.
“We're women, and there's been overwhelming support from all different genders and races while we've been out here,” Fitzgibbons said. “But you wouldn't believe how hateful people are even though it's the law of the land here.”
Another protester at the corner, Sarah Carroll, who is a nurse, said she was worried about the effects that she’ll see in the health-care system. “Nurses are taught bodily autonomy,” Carroll said. “That's how we take care of our patients. So now, only half of my patients have bodily autonomy. What is that?”
Meanwhile, at Spiotta Park in South Orange, BlueWaveNJ, Planned Parenthood of Metro NJ, NJ-11 for Change, SOMA Action and other groups organized the Protect Abortion Rights Essex County rally. More than a hundred people gathered to listen to public officials and community leaders.
Mayor Sean Spiller of Montclair, who spoke at the rally, told Montclair Local: “Our diversity is our strength in Montclair. We celebrate that, we champion that, we fight for that. And I think that's really what this is about today, too.
“We know it's an awful ruling from the Supreme Court. But it doesn't mean that we go away. We stand up, we push back, we get on to what we can, and that means voting, keeping those in office who support our views.”
Other speakers included Mayor Ras Baraka of Newark; Roslyn Rogers, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Metro NJ; Elizabeth Meyer, founder of the New Jersey Women’s March; and 17-year-old activist Maylin Rodriguez, among others.
“We are here to sound the alarm that has been going on forever,” Rodriguez said. “Well, let me tell you, this alarm is called justice, and it will not be silenced.”
New Jersey is one of 16 states and the District of Columbia where the right to abortion will be protected despite the court ruling. In January, Murphy signed the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act, which codified abortion rights in New Jersey, and he has encouraged the Legislature to widen abortion protections.
“The U.S. Supreme Court abandoned 50 years of established precedent and took the truly unprecedented step of stripping American women of the reproductive rights that the Court, regardless of its political configuration, had recognized and protected for more than half a century,” said Essex County Commissioner and Montclair resident Brendan GIll in a statement to the Montclair Local. “We must call out the vulgarity of those who invoke the concepts of “freedom” and “liberty” as code words for the singular mission to rob large segments of our society, based on gender, race and sexual identity, of their most personal freedoms and liberties."
State Sen. Nia Gill of Montclair has introduced legislation to protect individuals from out of state who have abortions in New Jersey. Senate bills S-2633 and S-2642 work in conjunction to “ensure all who receive treatment in our state have complete legal protection when engaging in their right to reproductive care,” Gill said in a statement.
The administrator of Pilgrim Medical Center, who declined to give her name, said the staff at the clinic, which provides abortion in Montclair, is already treating out-of-state patients and is prepared for an influx of individuals looking to get reproductive care in New Jersey.