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EDITORIAL: With abortion rights at risk, state government's role is critical

The right to choose is largely supported in New Jersey, and lawmakers should be paying attention

Any action to limit abortion must be resisted.  – Photo by Gayatri Malhotra /

There has been a concerted effort by certain states to roll back the protections for abortion guaranteed under the landmark Supreme Court ruling, Roe v. Wade. As the Court has shifted further to the Right, many states saw an opening to make abortion access more difficult. One such state, Texas, earlier this year enacted a bill that bans abortion as soon as six weeks in, without exceptions for incest or rape.

This in and of itself is cause for concern, but even more so, perhaps, because the bill allows private citizens to enforce the law. The deputizing of private citizens to enforce laws should concern all of us, and it has. The Court recently picked up this issue to determine whether this type of enforcement is legal and whether the Department of Justice can sue to stop the ban.

Although the Court is sending a good signal in reviewing the ban and the deputizing of citizens to enforce controversial laws, they have refused to block the bill throughout its litigation. Instead, they are allowing the law to stand while they review the case. Courts can block a law as it goes through the judiciary, so by not blocking the law, the Court could be sending a signal that restricting abortion access could be fine.

This allowance has caused many people concern. People fret over whether the right to abortion — the right to choose — might be curbed. This worry is palpable, especially in more progressive states, such as New Jersey.

A recent poll conducted by the Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics found that a majority of New Jerseyans are concerned about access to abortion. The polling data was released on Nov. 9, after the election. In highlighting voters' long-term goals, the poll makes clear that voters — Democrats, Republicans and Independents — care about abortion access and worry about potentially losing such protections.

Worry such as this makes it clear that abortion is a top-of-mind issue for voters and cannot be overlooked by elected officials. Abortion, which has come under threat by extreme social conservatives bent on refiguring the American social sphere, must be protected and must always be accessible.

It is worth noting that the poll only talked to 1,008 people. The poll should be expanded in scope, and there should be other mechanisms to talk to people and to get information about how people feel about crucial issues.

Despite these potential flaws, the poll does offer an important lens into how people feel about abortion, the state of abortion and what is happening throughout the country. Hyper-specific polls that focus on a significant topic such as this one offer an opportunity for voters to express what they care about.

Lawmakers should pay attention to these types of polls — polls that ask about specific issues highlight what people want and what they care most about. This on its own merit should inspire lawmakers to continuously defend the right to choose and to make accessing abortion easier and safer.

But if they do not, we still can make our voices heard and make sure that we protect abortion here. Abortion access affects everyone: people of all genders, the young and the elderly, college students and married couples. Due to how wide-reaching abortion is as an issue, it is vital that people continue to be vigilant and fight for their rights.

Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in national politics, especially when every issue seemingly becomes nationalized, but the most power remains at the state level. Even if the Court reverses protections, even if Texas passes laws that outlaw abortion, people in New Jersey, students at Rutgers, can still insulate ourselves from those encroachments.

A key avenue to protecting the rights of the right to choose can start at the state level. Polls such as this one might not influence lawmakers in Washington, D.C., but they can influence lawmakers here. We should invest more time and effort in ensuring New Jersey remains a safe haven for abortion access.

Students, especially at Rutgers, can continue to take direct actions that protect abortion access and that center women's healthcare. Students moved by this issue should volunteer with organizations such as Planned Parenthood or NARAL Pro-Choice America and take direct actions that impact not just lawmakers but also actual people on the ground.

If students take such direct action and couple it with paying greater attention to state government, New Jersey can be a continued safe haven for abortion access. Students should research candidates, and they should make sobered policy-based decisions around who they vote for.

When these actions happen, they create a space where abortion is protected. When we make sure our state officials do what we want, we help ensure that the things we care about are taken seriously and that the rights we need are protected.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 153rd editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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