June 25, 2015 — Reproductive rights advocates are calling on New Jersey lawmakers to reject Gov. Chris Christie's (R) possible veto of family planning funding, noting that his opposition stems from his opposition to abortion rights rather than fiscal constraints, the NJ Spotlight/Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
According to the Spotlight/Inquirer, Christie in 2010 cut $7.5 million in funding for family planning clinics from the state budget, which resulted in the closure of six facilities. Christie has contended that federally qualified health centers provide the care that the family planning clinics offered and has continued to veto funding by citing fiscal restraints.
However, Christie in February said he had vetoed budget funding for family planning clinics because he opposed abortion, the Spotlight/Inquirer reports. Speaking last week at a conference, Christie again cited his antiabortion-rights stance as the motivation behind the budget cuts.
Meanwhile, reproductive-rights advocates have pointed out that the funding was not used for abortion care but covered a variety of health care services, such as breast and cervical cancer screenings.
Advocates Call for Restored Funding
According to the Spotlight/Inquirer, Planned Parenthood on Monday led a rally to protest the family planning budget cuts, which the organization said would further impede women's access to health care in the state.
Similarly, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D) called on state legislators to reject Christie's possible veto. "Those of you who voted year after year after year to uphold the governor's veto because it was a budget issue, you know very well this is not a budget issue," she said. According to the Spotlight/Inquirer, Weinberg has proposed a measure (S 3103) that would restore the $7.45 million in family planning funds, as well as another bill (S 3104) that would extend Medicaid family planning coverage to non-pregnant women.
President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southern New Jersey, Lynn Brown, said, "It was shocking in New Jersey to have a governor suddenly redline one of the most important services in the state budget. And when you stop and think about it, $7.5 million is not a lot of money for what it returns in terms of other societal issues."
Brown added that federally qualified health centers complement but do not replace the care offered through family planning clinics. She said, "In most communities, we are such collaborative partners. [Federally qualified health centers] depend on the family planning centers, because we're the experts at reproductive health. We're so important to that fabric of public health" (Kitchenman, NJ Spotlight/Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/24).