Susan Druckenbrod was in elementary school when Roe v. Wade was first decided, and spent most of her life unconcerned about any restrictions on her reproductive choices.
Now in her 50s, she is co-chair of the committee on racial and economic equity at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Cherry Hill and an avid organizer with South Jersey Progressive Democrats.
“It’s a very heavy day,” Druckenbrod said Friday. “I worry for younger women and what this means for them.”
The United States Supreme Court released its long-awaited ruling Friday, overturning Roe v. Wade and eliminating the constitutional right to abortion. The 6-3 decision had been largely expected following a leak of the draft opinion striking down the landmark 1973 decision protecting the right to abortion.
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The Supreme Court decision upholds Mississippi law in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization in which the state was sued over its ban on abortions starting at 15 weeks. The law was blocked in 2018 when an appeals court ruled it an improper hardship on access to abortion. The decision to eliminate the constitutional right to abortion now leaves the question of the legality of abortion to individual states.
Kaitlyn Wojtowicz, vice president of public affairs at the Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey chided the decision.
"The court has failed us all — especially Black, Latino, indigenous, and other people of color who are disproportionately harmed by abortion bans due to this country's legacy of racism and discrimination. This outrageous decision will fuel efforts by state politicians to ban abortion in states across the U.S., forcing people to travel hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles for care, or remain pregnant against their will," Wojtowicz said in a statement.
Victoria Pagan-Perez, a 26-year-old South Jersey resident, believes abortion is a personal decision.
“It should be up to the individual, not a bunch of white men in a room,” Pagan-Perez said. “It’s ridiculous.”
Despite the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, about a 61% of American adults say abortion should be legal in most or all cases according to a poll from the Pew Center for Research earlier this month.
"I firmly believe that our government should protect reproductive freedoms. When it comes to important personal and health decisions in life, it is vital that a woman be able to make these decisions for herself, based on what is best for her and her family. This is especially true in instances of rape and when pregnancy may place the woman’s life is at risk," State Sen. Troy Singleton said in a statement Friday.
The Camden County Board of Commissioners said in a news statement it stands in favor of women's rights.
"This is a sad day in America, nevertheless, the Board will continue to fight and advocate for expanded healthcare rights for all women and a ensure that a right to choose is never legislated away," Camden County Commissioner Melinda Kane said.
Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, a former executive director of New Jersey's largest pro-life organization New Jersey Right to Life Committee, backed the court's ruling.
"All unborn babies deserve protection not death by abortion. Unborn babies and their mothers need support; we need to love and help them both. There has been an explosion in interventions that have saved children’s lives and mitigated many, many problems that they may face when the disability, for example, was not caught early. Now, more than ever, women and men of conscience must act to protect the weakest and most vulnerable," Smith said in a statement.
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker said Friday he fears Republican-led states will use the ruling as opening to ban abortion.
"More than half of American states are certain or likely to ban abortion with Roe v. Wade overturned; 13 of them already have laws that immediately ban abortion with a decision overturning Roe. And we know that congressional Republicans will move forward with legislation to ban abortion nationwide if given the opportunity," Booker said.
Taylor Johnson, a nurse at Cooper Health, feels the ruling could force some women to seek out unsafe abortions.
“It’s not gonna stop it, it’s gonna stop the safe part of it,” Johnson said. "I'm surprised but not shocked."
U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross condemned the ruling in a tweet, saying he stands with Americans who support reproductive freedom.
Today I stand in solidarity with the millions of Americans who will lose their access to reproductive freedom. We can’t let these extreme SCOTUS justices turn our country backwards. #RoeVWade pic.twitter.com/MAhkwoQ9YJ
— Congressman Donald Norcross 🇺🇸🇺🇦 (@DonaldNorcross) June 24, 2022
Sen. Edward Durr representing New Jersey's third legislative district praised the ruling as saving lives.
“Unfortunately, Gov. Murphy supports allowing abortions up until birth, so we still have much work to do to address this sickening taking of innocent lives here in New Jersey," he said.
U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew representing New Jersey's second congressional district called for Americans to respect the Supreme Court's decision.
"And we must come together to reject the latest attempts by those who disagree with today’s decision to abolish or pack the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court made the right decision to return this issue to the states so they can create their own laws regarding abortion. Here in New Jersey, we must continue to speak out and fight against Gov. Murphy’s radical policies that call for taxpayer funded partial-birth abortions," Van Drew said in a statement.
Druckenbrod said she'll press local officials to take a firmer stance on supporting abortion rights, and called on the state to make access to abortions more equitable.
“Many of us were expecting (the decision) — but it’s hitting us hard,” she said.
Nicolette White is the Diversity and Inclusion reporter for the Burlington County Times, The Daily Journal and Courier-Post. She is a Temple University graduate with Dallas, Texas roots. Send tips to email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @nicolettejwhite.Please support local journalism with a digital subscription.
This article originally appeared on Burlington County Times: South Jersey responds to Supreme Court's decision on Roe v. Wade