New Jersey Lawmakers: If We Can Afford A Special Election, We Can Find The Money For Family Planning

Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) (Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

After Gov. Chris Christie (R) slashed $7.5 million from women’s health programs in 2010 — mainly to prevent the money from going to Planned Parenthood — several health clinics in the state were forced to close. Now, New Jersey lawmakers are pushing to restore state funding for those family planning clinics, pointing out that many women rely on them for their primary care.

“I know the governor has found the money — at least $12 million — for a special election in October,” state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D) pointed out, referring to an expensive special election to replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) that the governor decided to hold just a few weeks before the regular general election. “So I think the women of New Jersey deserve to have their family planning centers open and operating.”

This week, a Senate budget committee approved two measures to help address the shortage of women’s health resources in New Jersey. One measure would restore the $7.5 million back to struggling family planning centers, and the other would extend Medicaid coverage for family planning services to additional low-income women. The senators who spearheaded the measures noted that Christie’s budget cuts have forced six women’s health clinics to close. Family planning providers saw 33,000 fewer patients in 2012 compared to 2009, nearly a 25 percent drop.

“Clinics where many of the state’s most needy women receive basic health care services such as mammograms, gynecological exams and blood-pressure screenings have had to shutter their doors — and those clinics that have been able to remain open have had to reduce their operating hours, limiting low-income women’s access to these facilities,” state Sen. Linda Greenstein (D), another sponsor of one of the measures, explained.

New Jersey Democrats have been fighting to restore the women’s health funding for the past three years, and have so far been unsuccessful. Last year, the governor vetoed similar bills that would have bolstered family planning resources in the state. Christie has maintained that it’s important to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving state funding because the national women’s health organization provides abortion care.

But other states have foreshadowed the negative effects of slashing family planning funds simply to target Planned Parenthood. In Texas, where anti-abortion lawmakers made huge cuts to women’s health programs and kicked Planned Parenthood out of the state’s Medicaid program, thousands of women have lost access to essential preventative health care. An estimated 200,000 low-income women in Texas have already lost or could soon lose access to birth control, and the state’s health department has projected a sharp rise in unintended births.