Protecting Roe v. Wade is Not Enough

Access to reproductive health care is critical to advancing economic justice.

Published on Jan 22, 2020 in Health

Today, Americans commemorate the 47th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down statewide bans on abortion, thereby allowing people to make decisions about whether and when to have a family. Thankfully, New Jersey has consistently upheld the right to abortion care since the procedure was legalized

New Jersey is one of just twelve states that uses state funds to support Medicaid access to abortion services to mitigate the impact of the Hyde Amendment, which blocks all federal funds from paying for abortion information, referrals, or care. Equally important, the state has largely remained outside the national trend of state-level abortion restrictions like waiting periods and mandatory ultrasound exams.

Though the right to abortion exists in theory, for many people in New Jersey and around the nation, it is inaccessible in practice. The leader of Yellowhammer Fund, an abortion fund and reproductive justice organization in Alabama, describes this reality in a thoughtful refection of this day. In a post-Roe world, Amanda Reyes asserts, access to abortion care requires a person have the financial ability to travel to and obtain the service; it requires a doctor or clinic savvy enough to remain in business despite chronically low Medicaid reimbursement rates; it requires a new generation of abortion providers to replace those who retire. When one or more of these are absent, the harm falls hardest on lower income communities and the under- and uninsured, people who are transgender and non-binary, and people who may face significant barriers to health care more generally. 

New Jersey can do better. 

In his State of the State address, Governor Murphy detailed an agenda for the year ahead that includes passing legislation to enshrine the right to abortion access and reproductive health care in state law. That makes sense, as it recognizes that reproductive health care is inextricably linked to racial and economic justice. With Roe v. Wade under threat by the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s more important than ever that New Jersey build on its strong track record of supporting reproductive health. 

But the legislation must go further to show that New Jersey won’t back down in the face of ongoing attacks. Lawmakers must ensure that everyone has equitable access to care regardless of a person’s income, zip code, age, race, or immigration status. When everyone can make decisions that are best for their own lives, families thrive and communities grow stronger. 

At NJPP, we know that ensuring access to comprehensive reproductive health care is critical to reducing poverty, ensuring racial equity, and advancing economic justice. But access to these services should not depend on how wealthy you are or which zip code you happen to live in. The governor and legislature have a unique opportunity this legislative session to not only affirm these rights, but ensure that the state is taking an active role in breaking down harmful barriers so all New Jerseyans can decide what’s best for them and their families.