Loretta Weinberg, Raj Mukherji & Valerie Vainieri Huttle say they’re ready to protect & advance abortion rights in New Jersey

Last winter, a Facebook update told me Loretta Weinberg was in Washington for a conference of progressive state legislators; the annual State Innovation Exchange Legislator Conference (SIX Conference for short), which I’d never heard of. I called her up. “What is this? I never heard of it.” She clued me in, and told me she was the only person from New Jersey attending. Come down, she said. I jumped in the car, got down to D.C. and spent the day there with her. She was not happy to be the only state rep there from Jersey, or that far as she knew, the only one who’d ever been. I mean, this was right after Trump. I saw her point. Other states – who had to fly in, as opposed to just roll down I-95 or catch the Acela from Trenton – had delegations. Minnesota had so many people, they moved through the halls en masseMinnesota’s getting coffee then heading to the afternoon session. 

So this caught my attention: A few days ago, more than 200 state legislators launched the Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council, committing themselves to leading their states on reproductive rights, health, and justice by promoting a bold unapologetic stand for abortion rights, and embracing the role state legislators can play in protecting and advancing those rights. The states are a battleground for systematically cutting off women’s access and squeezing funding from providers. It’s no surprise that Weinberg signed on, she was point woman for all 8 long years of the Christie administration fighting for funding for women’s health. But I just checked over the Council’s member list, and I’m happy to see two other Jersey names; Assembly members Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37, and Weinberg’s district-mate) and Raj Mukherji (D-33). Well-done.

So I hope that means when the next SIX Conference is scheduled, both Vainieri Huttle and Mukherji will be there. In fact, let’s get a whole delegation from New Jersey, please. The 2018 conference date isn’t scheduled yet or I’d link to it. But then, y’all have staffs for that sort of thing. Maybe if you come down, Cory Booker will keynote again and you can observe first-hand what Weinberg and I did; Cory Booker walks onstage, and seven or eight hundred people simultaneously whip out cell phones to record every word. Interesting phenomenon, self-described progressive legislators seeing him as progressive, when that question is always up for debate here in NJ.

Before I go, an interesting thing about the Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council, which our 3 in the Legislature signed on to. The coverage. 

Cosmo wrote about Georgia legislator Renitta Shannon’s own abortion at 22. This Colorado newspaper covered signer Dafna Michaelson Jenet’s abortion experience. Unsweetened, which focuses on “voices from a feminist south” (whaat? that’s fantastic) discusses the challenges our sisters face in that region, including rural hospital closures in the South, a lack of comprehensive sex education in schools, and roadblocks to effective contraception.  But this North Carolina paper focuses as much on protecting the rights of health care workers who refuse to perform abortions and how reliable Trump has been supporting anti-abortion advocates (and how much they love Trump, who you remember used to be pro-choice). Sigh.

In the last 7 years – from January 2011 to the start of this year – states have enacted 401 abortion restriction. And it’s accelerating:

Including those adopted in 2017, states have enacted 401 abortion restrictions since January 2011. The last seven years account for 34% of the 1,193 abortion restrictions enacted by states since the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in Roe v. Wade. After new restrictions enacted in 2017, 29 states have adopted enough abortion restrictions to be considered either hostile (6 states) or extremely hostile (23 states) to abortion rights, with Iowa and West Virginia entering the hostile group for the first time. With the addition of these new states, 58% of American women of reproductive age lived in a state considered either hostile or extremely hostile to abortion rights in 2017. Only 30% of women lived in a state supportive of abortion rights.

Follow up stuff:
Watch: five videos of state legislators saying why they fight for reproductive freedom
About the SIX Conference for progressive state legislators . FYI – Limited seats available for advocates/policy folks. [Blue Jersey attended as Press].
Follow SIX on Twitter.

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