AG, US attorney join forces to support continued access to reproductive health care

Acting New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin, above, announces in Newark on July 20 that he is joining forces with U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Philip Sellinger to protect continued access to reproductive health care in New Jersey.

NEWARK, NJ — Acting New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Philip Sellinger announced a state-federal partnership designed to ensure access to reproductive health care for New Jersey residents and those from out of state who seek such care in the Garden State, according to July 20 press releases from both offices. The partnership will also ensure state-federal collaboration to protect health care workers, increase security for providers of abortion care, and protect the data privacy rights of patients and those who assist individuals seeking reproductive health services.

The announcement comes in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overruled nearly half a century of settled precedent set by Roe v. Wade and held that the Constitution does not protect the right to an abortion.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey — and the entire Justice Department — will do everything within our power to protect reproductive freedom,” Sellinger said. “Despite the court’s decision, abortion remains legal in New Jersey. We will work tirelessly to ensure women (have) unobstructed access to reproductive health services throughout New Jersey, including access to abortion services, so that women may consult with their medical providers to make important and personal decisions about their bodies and their lives.”

Platkin also announced that the Division of Criminal Justice within the Department of Law and Public Safety has issued guidance to all 21 of New Jersey’s county prosecutors about charges they may bring against individuals who interfere with access to abortion rights. This guidance is a first step in coordinating with county prosecutors and local law enforcement to ensure that individuals are held accountable for crimes committed against patients, providers and clinics.

“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. We are using every available tool at our disposal to keep abortion patients and their providers safe,” Platkin said. “We’re proud to work side-by-side with Gov. Murphy, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the federal government to protect access to reproductive health care.”

Sellinger and Platkin emphasized their commitment to have open lines of communications and, when appropriate, to share intelligence and information in order to facilitate efficient decision-making in protecting reproductive rights. They also announced plans for their offices to work together to conduct a series of outreach sessions with stakeholders, such as reproductive service providers and advocates, to send a clear message that law enforcement at all levels will protect reproductive rights.

The state-federal partnership will involve intelligence sharing between the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, the Division of Criminal Justice, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, and the state’s local, county and state law enforcement partners. The New Jersey State Police will also provide time-sensitive information sharing and data analysis to law enforcement across all 21 New Jersey counties and to federal partners.

In addition to investigating threats, intelligence sharing through this collaboration is anticipated to uncover misconduct that crosses state lines and exceeds the territorial restraints of state law enforcement and agencies. By maintaining these collaborative efforts, state-generated intelligence can support larger federal cases for both criminal and civil enforcement.

“The Division of Criminal Justice is committed to protecting the right to choose in New Jersey and to protecting those who provide and receive reproductive services in our state,” DCJ Director Pearl Minato said. “Working with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, we are creating a communication pipeline to create uniformity in enforcement across the state. 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.”

Sellinger reiterated U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland’s strong disagreement with the Dobbs ruling and its far-reaching impact on people, particularly people of color and people with limited financial resources.

“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 bodies, their health and their futures,” Sellinger said.

Sellinger promised continued enforcement of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which prohibits obstructing access to reproductive health services through violence, threats of violence or property damage. He said women who live in New Jersey — or who travel to New Jersey — will continue to have unobstructed access to reproductive health services, including abortion services.

Platkin also announced that OHSP will begin directing funds provided by the Reproductive Health Security Grant Program to high-risk reproductive health facilities so that they may improve security through, for example, target hardening and active shooter training. This grant program was created by the governor’s current budget, which the Legislature enacted and Murphy signed into law last month.

“Our Grants Management Bureau has been hard at work, collaborating with the governor and his team to roll out a $5 million grant program that would assist health care providers who support reproductive services and who can demonstrate the greatest security risks,” New Jersey OHSP Director Laurie Doran said. “The end goal of this grant program is to assess threats and vulnerabilities and award eligible health care providers with grant funding that would allow them to strengthen their security posture through target-hardening equipment purchases or added security personnel.”

“The Division of Consumer Affairs will use every available tool to protect the rights of individuals who receive and provide reproductive health care services in New Jersey and insulate them from unjust retaliation,” DCA Director Cari Fais said. “We are committed to upholding an individual’s right to choose by actively working to ensure that people in New Jersey can access reproductive health care without barriers.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office’s newly created Civil Rights Division will lead the office’s enforcement and outreach efforts. The division brings together civil and criminal prosecutors into one division focused on protecting civil rights, including the right to access reproductive health care. Anyone with knowledge of FACE Act violations can contact the office through the civil rights hotline at 855-281-3339 or through the complaint portal at www.justice.gov/usao-nj.

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