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July 21, 2022

To boost protection of abortion access, New Jersey gets assistance from U.S. Attorney's Office

State and federal agencies will work together to increase security to providers and enhance data privacy safeguards for those who help people access the procedure

New Jersey's top prosecutor and the U.S. attorney for the state have agreed to share intelligence about threats to abortions facilities and providers – the latest effort to protect abortion access in New Jersey following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

The partnership between Attorney General Matthew Platkin and U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger, announced Wednesday, also aims to protect health care workers, increase security for abortion providers and enhance protections of data privacy for those who assist individuals in accessing abortion. 

Sellinger pledged to continue enforcing a 1994 federal law that prohibits people from obstructing access to reproductive health services by using violence, threats or property damage. His office also has created a Civil Rights Division that includes a team of attorneys dedicated to protecting reproductive services in New Jersey. 

"While the right to control one's own body is central to individual freedom, the Court's decision denies millions of women that right by preventing them from being able to make critical and highly personal decisions about their own bodies, their health and their futures," Sellinger said

Platkin plans to issue guidance to New Jersey's 21 county prosecutors that outlines the charges they can use against people who seek to prevent abortions. 

The partnership involves large-scale intelligence sharing between the Attorney General's Office, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the state's Division of Criminal Justice and the U.S. Attorney's Office, as well as state and local law enforcement agencies. 

The intelligence sharing is expected to uncover other misconduct that crosses state lines and exceeds the restraints of state law enforcement, Platkin said. Additionally, the OHSP is issuing funds from the Reproductive Health Security Grant Program to help abortion providers amp up their security and improve trainings. 

The partnership is just one of several protections New Jersey leaders have adopted since the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson in June. 

"As other states impose draconian penalties on patients and health care professionals who seek or provide abortion care, New Jersey has chosen a very different path," Platkin said. "We are using every available tool at our disposal to keep abortion patients and their providers safe." 

As some states move to ban the procedure, states like New Jersey, Connecticut and California are working to become "safe havens" for people seeking abortions from states placing heavy restrictions on the procedure. 

A new law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy earlier this month allows state agencies to decline to participate in other state's investigations of abortions provided in New Jersey. 

In January, lawmakers enshrined abortion rights in state law ahead of the Supreme Court's decision. The Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act placed an emphasis on protections for "time-sensitive" health care, including birth control. 

Following the leaked draft opinion of Dobbs v. Jackson in early May, Murphy and other Democratic lawmakers made a second attempt to enact further protections, including access for out-of-state abortion seekers

Many of those laws had stalled in the General Assembly prior to the Supreme Court's decision. For instance, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey introduced two bills to establish New Jersey as a "sanctuary" for abortions. 

Additional legislations has been passed to protect in-vitro fertilization, make abortion care more accessible and affordable, and enable law enforcement to refuse to cooperate with states seeking to investigate abortions that are provided in New Jersey.

Most recently, Platkin set up an "abortion strike force" to protect out-of-state travelers, as well as residents of New Jersey seeking abortions in the state. The strike force allows authorities to take legal action against anyone who threatens or intimidates a person seeking an abortion in New Jersey.