METUCHEN – The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park on Middlesex Avenue has been a site where people have gathered over the years to express their First Amendment rights on a number of passionate matters.
Most recently, a large crowd gathered to let their voices be heard during “The Bans Off Our Bodies Abortion Rights Rally” calling to protect access to abortions on May 14.
The rally was organized through Speak Up NJ, a small grassroots group in Metuchen, and Indivisible Central NJ, part of the national Indivisible network. It follows many similar rallies across the country.
The rally comes in the wake of news of a leaked draft opinion suggesting the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, a 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide, as well as overturn Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld the right to have an abortion.
Also in the coming weeks, the Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health and legal experts widely expect the court to severely curtail – or even overturn altogether – the 50-year precedent that established every woman’s right to determine if they will give birth.
If that happens, 36 million people across the country will lose access to abortion, according to march organizers.
Mayor Jonathan Busch welcomed the crowd. Many in the crowd held signs “Abortion Access For All;” “My Body My Choice”; “Bans Off Our Bodies;” and “We Won’t Go Back.”
“We keep being told that men like me have to come off the sidelines,” he said, rallying other men to join him and come off the sidelines. “I know that women’s rights are not only just about our sisters, our wives, and our children. Women’s rights are human rights, and we are here to ensure that we will never stop fighting for rights preserved by Roe even if Dobbs is adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Busch’s wife, Kathy, served as emcee of the rally.
“The threat to women’s rights is real,” she said. “It’s not an existential threat, it’s here, it’s now and it impacts every one of us. Some of you here have fought for women’s reproductive rights for more than 50 years. We are here to speak up for women’s rights and speak up for girls’ rights.”
The rally included keynote speaker New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy along with Congressman Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey); Vinita Jethwani, who serves as a board member of the Planned Parenthood Action Network; Rev. Dr. Fred Garry, senior pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Metuchen; and Sydney Yakowenko, a Metuchen High School graduate.
Jethwani said it’s important for people to understand that “abortion is healthcare.”
“The majority of people who have abortions are already parents and the majority of people who have abortions are religiously affiliated,” she said. “Research shows us denying wanted abortions can have negative consequences on people’s health, safety, and even economic well-being. Let’s remember banning abortions will not end abortions.”
Murphy said in New Jersey, her husband’s [Phil Murphy] administration was not only hoping for the best, but had the forethought to prepare for the worst with the Reproductive Freedom Act, which ensures all New Jerseyans have the right to make their own personal health care decisions when it comes to birth control and pregnancy-related care, including abortion.
The act went into effect in 2020.
“It believes every human being has the autonomy of their own bodies and it protects all aspects,” she said.
The First Lady said they are continuing to work to make sure those – not insured or underinsured – have equal access; to work on setting up a fund to secure space for the equal access; to work to make sure all who practice in providing abortions can do so in a safe way; and to work to make sure they are able to protect everyone defending those people coming to New Jersey for abortions – including, for example, even an Uber driver transporting a woman to her appointment.