In wake of Roe's downfall, New Jersey residents on both sides look to what's next

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The reaction wave set off by the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that ensured Americans the constitutional right to an abortion, continued this weekend as rallies across New Jersey gathered in favor and against the ruling.

And while hundreds have taken to the streets in the Garden State, where abortion access will remain unchanged under a law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in January, millions in at least 13 states woke up Saturday morning to abortion effectively outlawed in their home states.

Those in favor of Roe’s overturn celebrated what many have called a 50-year battle to reverse the landmark decision. While those opposed have shifted their focus to what they fear may happen next: that other precedents established by the Supreme Court under the 14th amendment will be overturned, including access to contraception and gay marriage.

Protesting for abortion-rights

Jessica Arenella speaks during a rally at Veterans' Memorial in Wayne to support abortion-rights after the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade. The rally is held on Saturday June 25, 2022.
Jessica Arenella speaks during a rally at Veterans' Memorial in Wayne to support abortion-rights after the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade. The rally is held on Saturday June 25, 2022.

At rallies across New Jersey this weekend, those on the ground illustrate the polarizing tensions that remain in the wake of Roe's downfall. Despite being in a state where abortion access is codified by law, those in New Jersey who are anti-abortion have begun calls to roll back those established protections. That, in turn, is leading people to organize rallies supporting abortion-rights.

About 100 people rallied outside the Wayne municipal complex Saturday afternoon with a shared goal to organize against abortion bans and other rights that participants feared could be at risk.

“Luckily in New Jersey we are protected,” said Akira Gluck, a Rutgers University student and organizer with the group Wayne for Change. “Nearly half the country isn’t as lucky. We need to fight. Abortion is going to happen one way or another. We need to make sure it’s safe.”

Speakers urged people to get involved in politics from the local to the federal level. They are worried, they said, that the Supreme Court would also try and overturn rulings allowing same-sex marriage and contraception, as Justice Clarence Thomas suggested might happen.

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In a concurring opinion published Friday, Thomas outlined how the same rationale used to overturn Roe v. Wade should also be used to overturn other landmark cases that establish the rights to contraception, same-sex consensual relations and same-sex marriage.

In Wayne and other towns, outside political groups were spending money and organizing for school board races to promote similar conservative agendas, speakers in the Passaic County town noted.

“We need to get out there. We need to make our voices heard. We’re the majority,” said Maria DeLuca-Pranzo of Wayne.

Others who spoke urged people to keep up protests, donate to groups that support abortion and to keep pressure on elected officials. During the rally in the municipal parking lot, people streamed in and out of the public library and shopped for fruits and vegetables at an adjacent farmers market, with some listening in to the day’s speakers.

The rally attracted people ranging from students to senior citizens. Among older residents, there was a sense of anger and disbelief that rights granted in their lifetimes would be, and could be, taken away from their children.

Some, like Kerry Hewitt of Verona, said they did not typically attend protests, but felt jolted to action by the Supreme Court ruling. “I am beside myself but I think we can’t lose hope and we can’t stop here, so my grandchildren can have the same rights that I had,” said Hewitt.

In nearby Dover, residents were expected to rally at the Crescent Field parking lot on Saturday night to demand safe and affordable abortion access to all residents of the United States.

Karol Ruiz, an attorney and the town's Board of Education vice president, whose term expires this year, said in a statement ahead of the demonstration: “The Dobbs decision is the continuation of a concerted, pointed attack on the health, well being, and reproductive rights of people who can give birth across the country, in each state and locality, and here in Dover."

Celebrating Right to Life for the unborn child

Supporters of the decision of the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade rally outside the New Jersey Statehouse annex. The two hour rally was organized by New Jersey Right to Life in Trenton, NJ on June 25, 2022.
Supporters of the decision of the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade rally outside the New Jersey Statehouse annex. The two hour rally was organized by New Jersey Right to Life in Trenton, NJ on June 25, 2022.

In other parts of the state, people gathered to celebrate Roe’s downfall.

For anti-abortion advocates, this victory in many ways was 50 years in the making, set off the moment Roe v. Wade became the law of the land. Now, advocates said, their efforts will turn to rolling back abortion access in the Garden State, where the protections set in place by Roe were codified by the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act, signed by Murphy on Jan. 13.

In Trenton, about 300 people attended an anti-abortion rally at the Statehouse Annex on Saturday. Among the more than 20 speakers were clergy, doctors, leaders of “right-to-life” groups and women who spoke about having — or choosing not to have — abortions.

Holding up a representation of a fetus, Christine Flaherty of the nonprofit Lifenet NJ rejoiced at Roe’s downfall and how abortion will soon be outlawed in several states.

“I’m so happy I could dance,” she said. “Can you believe this happened in our lifetime? Hallelujah!”

Some in attendance quickly shifted their focus on what they say should happen next.

Chris Smith, a Republican congressman for New Jersey’s 4th district, said he is “in on every single debate in the house” that abortion is discussed. He scoffed at how laws in New Jersey will continue to provide abortion access to those within state lines.

“I can’t be more disappointed in Gov. Murphy and our legislators,” he said. “But this ruling will usher in a new period for all of us to talk to our lawmakers.”

Greg Quinlan of the Center for Garden State Families urged the audience to turn their efforts to rolling back legal abortion in New Jersey. “We’re gonna change New Jersey from blue,” he said, adding that Murphy, state assemblywoman Mila Jasey and state senator M. Teresa Ruiz “gotta go.”

Dr. Gerald Burke an OB/GYN and president of the South Jersey Catholic Medical Guild addresses supporters regarding the decision of the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade at a rally outside the New Jersey Statehouse annex. The two hour rally was organized by New Jersey Right to Life in Trenton, NJ on June 25, 2022.
Dr. Gerald Burke an OB/GYN and president of the South Jersey Catholic Medical Guild addresses supporters regarding the decision of the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade at a rally outside the New Jersey Statehouse annex. The two hour rally was organized by New Jersey Right to Life in Trenton, NJ on June 25, 2022.

It remains to be seen what will happen in the wake of Roe’s overturn, as politicians and advocates continue to mobilize on both sides.

According to the Pew Research Center, 61% of U.S. adults say abortion should be legal all or most of the time, while 37% say it should be illegal all or most of the time.

A group of 20 Black congresswomen wrote a public letter to President Joe Biden ahead of Roe’s overturn Friday, insisting he protect access to abortion by "declaring a public health and national emergency” should the landmark case be overturned.

Black women are three times more likely to get an abortion than white women, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are also “nearly two and a half times more likely to die from childbirth than were white women,” according to an amicus brief filed by the National Birth Equity Collaborative and other organizations in support of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case.

Meanwhile, leaders in some states, like Texas, have gone as far as declaring June 24 an annual holiday to celebrate Roe's overturn.

Some liberal Democrats have called for the expansion of the Supreme Court — something that Biden remains openly against — in an effort to prevent the court's conservative-majority from continuing to wield so much power.

However, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Saturday that Biden “is going to continue to find solutions” to ensure abortion rights, but declined to elaborate further.

Melanie Anzidei is a reporter for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: anzidei@northjersey.com

Twitter: @melanieanzidei 

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Contraception, same sex marriage in crosshairs after Roe overturned