N.J. officials, feds teaming to protect abortion access after Supreme Court ruling

Published: Jul. 20, 2022

State and federal law enforcement officials in New Jersey have launched a new partnership aimed at protecting abortion rights in New Jersey, citing “draconian” anti-abortion laws enacted in other states following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Under the agreement, the law enforcement agencies will trade notes on cases involving violations of state and federal abortion access laws, including a federal law that prohibits blocking access to abortion clinics through threats of violence and a new state law protecting women who come to New Jersey seeking abortion access.

“Despite the court’s decision, abortion remains legal in New Jersey,” U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said during a Newark press conference Wednesday. “We will work tirelessly to ensure women’s unobstructed access to reproductive health services throughout New Jersey, including access to abortion services.”

Following the court’s June ruling, several Republican-led states quickly enacted laws banning abortion, some of them including provisions to prosecute patients or doctors in other jurisdictions. That prompted officials in several Democrat-led states to pass “safe haven” laws, including the one Gov. Phil Murphy signed earlier this month.

The partnership is primarily an “intelligence sharing” agreement between state law enforcement and homeland security officials and federal prosecutors in New Jersey concerning threats to patients and abortion providers. Acting state Attorney General Matthew Platkin said the partnership is similar to what state and federal agencies share concerning gun and drug trafficking cases.

“Unfortunately, now we have to do it with respect to reproductive healthcare,” Platkin told reporters.

State authorities say they are not aware of any current threats to abortion providers in New Jersey, though they have seen an uptick in protests outside clinics since Roe was overturned. The federal Department of Homeland Security, however, recently issued a memo warning that violent extremism both against and in favor of abortion rights was “likely” in the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling.

In New Jersey, officials at the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness say they’ll soon be distributing money from the Reproductive Health Security Grant Program, a $5 million fund created last year.

Laurie Doran, the state’s homeland security director, said the program will be run similarly to an existing grant program that pays for cameras, active shooter training and security at nonprofits, including houses of worship, that might be targets of violence.

Pearl Minato, who heads the state Division of Criminal Justice, said Wednesday that she also issued new guidance to the state’s 21 county prosecutors on how to enforce the state’s new abortion laws.

“Make no mistake, we will arrest, charge, and prosecute anyone who violates the laws in our state or attempts to interfere with access to care in New Jersey,” Minato said.

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-07-21 03:32:59 -0700