It finally happened.
Last week, conservative Supreme Court justices made it clear that they are going to kill Roe v. Wade. A draft of their appalling decision, written by Sam Alito, has been described as “a naked power grab.”
Since the news broke last Monday night, all of us have been overwhelmed with emotion.
Shock. Anger. Fear. Grief.
But that’s not all. Since the reproductive-rights rally we co-hosted in Montclair last Tuesday evening, we’ve also been overwhelmed by the love, support and shared purpose of our powerful pro-choice New Jersey community.
NJ 11th for Change co-hosted the BANS OFF OUR BODIES rally in Montclair last Tuesday.
That evening, we were filled with joy to reconnect with so many long-lost comrades-in-arms, many of whom we haven’t seen face-to-face since COVID began. We were overwhelmed by hope and determination from being surrounded by so much positive energy.
Our rough estimate? About 700 people participated!
Our rally was a powerful gathering. Its power derived — in part — from the cooperation of many statewide organizations, with whom NJ 11th for Change has been forging strong working alliances over the past five years. That shared investment paid off: together, we were able to pull off one of the biggest pro-choice events in the region — even though the idea of a rally was barely a twinkle in our eyes twelve hours before the first speaker took the podium.
Co-hosts of the rally included NJ 11th For Change, BlueWaveNJ, Make the Road NJ, NJ Citizen Action, NJ Working Families, Our Revolution NJ, People's Organization for Progress, Planned Parenthood, Summit Marches CD7, and Women for Progress.
Our rally’s power also derived from the conviction and diversity of our speakers:
- Planned Parenthood organizers talked about the pragmatic challenges Alito’s draft poses here and elsewhere in the United States.
- Elected officials explained legislative opportunities to make a difference, and what we need to do to make that happen.
- Advocates from BIPOC communities discussed how reproductive-rights restrictions pose very different challenges in disadvantaged communities.
- Activists from the LGBTQ+ community pointed out that women are not the only people for whom abortion rights matter; trans men and non-binary people can face unwanted pregnancy, too, and must not be left out of our efforts.
- People with a wide range of life experiences shared their own compelling, first-hand abortion stories.
- Experienced organizers reminded us of the commitment to action each of us needs to make.
Every single speaker made the point that abortion rights affect ALL of us. Click here for a complete video of the rally — all of the inspirational speakers, and the passionate, committed crowd. We recommend giving yourself an hour to watch the entire recording, but here are a few highlights:
First Lady Tammy Murphy (at 8:25 in the video)
“We all saw this coming ... This attack on women’s reproductive autonomy is exactly why we took the step earlier this year to enshrine every New Jerseyan’s full reproductive rights into law. ... Here in New Jersey, instead of just hoping for the best, we have been planning for the worst.”
Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (Dem-CD 11) (13:10)
“I have to tell you, I was so upset … I see a lot of tears in the crowd, but we’ve got to get over that. Because now I’m angry ... and now I’m feeling empowered…. and that’s because of all of you.”
Analilia Mejia, Center for Popular Democracy (36:30)
“We know that attacks on abortion harm communities of color and poor people the most ... Those who cannot [afford to travel for care] will be left at the mercy of systems that neither care for our wellbeing nor frankly want to even see us exist. History has shown us that reproductive control is a longstanding tactic utilized to uphold oppression and in many ways enforce white supremacy. There is no gender equality without reproductive freedom and the right to choose OUR own future. We cannot overstate what is at stake, and we must act now.”
Larry Hamm, People’s Organization for Progress (42:20)
“Women must have an unimpeded and unhindered right to an abortion! … [This] is not just a struggle for women. It is a struggle for men. It is a struggle for all of us! ... They are trying to roll back a hundred years of social progress ... They think they have won a victory. In their victory are the seeds of their defeat!”
Celeste Fiore, Esq., Founder of Trans Affirming Alliance (49:25)
“Transgender people get pregnant. Transgender people get other people pregnant. Trans rights are reproductive rights, and reproductive rights are trans rights! ... In the same way that we will stand up for everybody’s right to choose, we just ask that you stand up for us, too.”
Beverly Brown Ruggia, New Jersey Citizen Action (1:03:50)
“We know what we have to do. We know what’s at stake and we know that it’s going to take hard work and it doesn’t mean just the advocates in the room, it’s every single person here … A few years ago, a lot of you were out with us … three nights a week … for two years… to make sure the Republicans didn’t turn over the ACA. It took that much work … we have to show up!”
All of these speakers, and many more, contributed their power to the gathering. But most of all, the power of our rally derived from the passion and commitment of all of YOU. There were close to two hundred NJ 11th for Change activists raising their voices in the crowd that evening. Ya gotta give it to our members: WE SHOW UP WHEN IT MATTERS! Being surrounded by so many like minded, goodhearted people — people we know will do the work — well, that made an otherwise unbearable day bearable.
The reassuring news in NJ is that we have a measure of safety. In January 2022, the right to an abortion was finally encoded into state law, thanks to the hard work of Governor Phil Murphy, who remains a steadfast ally.
Just yesterday, Governor Murphy proposed additional legislation that would fill in the gaps in our protections: laws that would ensure that all New Jerseyans have not just the right but also equitable access to abortion. The new legislation would:
- require that insurers cover abortion costs.
- create a fund to help people who are uninsured or underinsured.
- expand the categories of healthcare professionals who are permitted to provide abortion services.
It would also protect our providers and visiting out-of-state patients (and Uber drivers, too!) from prosecution by those states that have outlawed abortion, and prevent cooperation with out-of-state abortion investigations.
BUT LET’S BE CLEAR:
Being safe in New Jersey doesn’t mean we don’t need to be angry, or that we can sit back.
Kids, cover your eyes!
Now they've got Rep. Mikie Sherrill angry.
Of course, anger is exhausting, and sometimes the fight seems futile. That doesn’t mean we give up. Last week, Mikie pointed out that the conservative Federalist Society took DECADES to cultivate and build the regressive GOP infrastructure that is now shaking the democratic foundation of our nation. If they can put in that kind of sustained effort, so can we! Yes, it may take years to swing the pendulum back to what we know is right. And by “swing” we mean millions of us working our tails off, RELENTLESSLY OPTIMISTIC (as Mikie put it), pushing that pendulum with all our might, for as long as it takes. We are strong, and we are determined!
Committed NJ 11th for Change member Laura Merz shared this: “Sherrilyn Ifill once said in an interview (and I am paraphrasing): in the history of Black people dealing with America, never does the story say ‘and then they gave up.’ Hundreds of years. Generations who persisted. Gains won and lost and won and lost and won again. Nevertheless they persisted.”
You know as well as we do: “Persist” doesn’t mean for one year, or for four years. It means for as long as it takes. If we don’t achieve what we want for ourselves, we fight to achieve it for our children. If we don’t get it for our children, we fight to achieve it for our grandkids. Our story will NOT end with "and then they gave up." We will fight, and we will make it as difficult as possible for our opponents, every step of the way — no giveaways, no free passes. And we will make it INCLUSIVE — no one left out, no one left behind.
How, you ask?
- Find an abortion fund and donate to it. Here is a wide-ranging list of options compiled by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, focusing on boots-on-the-ground organizations in at-risk states. National organizations are fine, but experienced local groups know what’s needed in their communities. They are the best choice to leverage your dollars to help people in their time of need.
- Call your senators and congressional representatives and demand that federal law be changed to guarantee self-determination to all. (Find contact info here.) Speakers at the rally urged a variety of legislative approaches: that we scrap the filibuster to codify Roe v. Wade into law; that we expand the number of justices on the Supreme Court; that we finally — finally! — pass the Equal Rights Amendment. Whatever strategies you support, make sure your reps know it!
- Fight for state legislation that protects abortion rights and abortion access. Also fight for state legislation that protects patients visiting from out of state and abortion providers in New Jersey from being prosecuted by states that have criminalized abortion. The legislation introduced by Governor Phil Murphy on Wednesday is a great model. The State Senate and General Assembly must pass it without any nonsense or needless stalling! Find contact info for your state reps here.
- Speak up in your community. Letters to the editor are a powerful way to influence opinion, and we are always looking for more writers to join our LTE team! You are an influencer in your community — if you are willing to speak up! Joining the team is a commitment to write a letter once every six weeks. Topics are up to you, just be sure of your facts and sources. (Here are some useful talking points.) Please email Jim Price if you’re interested and he will send you more information. Make your voice heard!
- Be visible at rallies and protests! When we show up, we show our elected representatives that this issue matters to us — their voters. Rallies also show our friends and neighbors that we are proud to support reproductive freedom. Hear about a rally? Go! Bring your family, bring your friends. The sense of community and solidarity we feel in the heart of a rally can lift up our spirits during this battle, and inspire others to join us in the work. Many committed volunteers were launched into activism when a friend dragged them to their very first rally! (Check here for updates on May 14 events in Wayne, Morristown, and New York, sponsored by Planned Parenthood; click here for a May 14 rally in Westfield, to feature Rep. Tom Malinowski.)
AND HERE’S THE BIGGIE:
- FIND A CAMPAIGN AND WORK ON IT! Once the party primary process is done, NJ 11th for Change will be endorsing candidates, and we can start working pedal-to-the-metal for pro-choice candidates. Our ally Saily Avelenda strongly encourages that you help by canvassing: “Every member of our delegation needs boots on the ground, some more than others. They need your anger. They need your time.” Please fill out this quick poll so we know what kinds of volunteering you are best able to do, and what races you are most eager to support!
It’s time to turn outrage into action. It’s time to tap into our deepest reserves of optimism. “Roe may be gone,” Laura Merz wrote, but “we will right this wrong. We will see future generations gain back the right to self determination. We will win it back for them.”
We will do it together.
- Tabling opportunities!
- Canvassing sign-ups
- Postcarding teams
- Text banking and phone banking
Educational programs about critical issues:
- Reproductive Rights and Abortion Access
- A Post-Mortem on the NJ Redistricting Process
- The War on Public Education: Nationwide & Here in NJ
Don’t forget to respond to this quick poll about how YOU would like to get involved!
Your contributions make our work possible! Donations allowed us to make almost 160,000 voter contacts in New Jersey's 11th congressional district in 2020, and over 130,000 in 2021; our efforts were a big part of making 11 towns flip from Trump in 2016 to Biden in 2020 (including some historically deep-red municipalities!) and securing a tight victory for Governor Phil Murphy in 2021.Your generous donation goes towards our data analysis and voter-file access, text banking expenses, support for our events, printing, and much more. It allows us to continue our work building a government that is transparent, responsive and accountable. Please visit our "DONATE" link and pledge any amount. Every contribution helps as we charge ahead into 2021 and beyond!