May 13, 2011 — State budget cuts to New Jersey family planning centers have forced six clinics to close and others to reduce their hours of operation, according to the chair of a panel charged with examining the effects of the cuts, the AP/MSNBC reports. State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D) led the panel in assessing the effects of the funding loss on low-income women who rely on the clinics for reproductive and other health care.
Weinberg said, "Cuts to women's health programs have a real-world impact, and that impact is being felt by women around the state who are unable to access basic health care services like cancer screening, [sexually transmitted infection] testing and pre- and post-natal care and, yes, contraception" (Delli Santi, AP/MSNBC, 5/11).
In his fiscal year 2011 budget, Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoed $7.5 million for family planning centers, saying that the state did not have the funding. Democrats in the Legislature attempted to restore the funding, which would have been distributed to 58 family planning centers across the state. In 2009, the centers provided more than 130,000 residents with services such as birth control, prenatal care, and breast and cervical cancer screenings. The centers could not use state funds for abortion services (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/24/10). Weinberg and Assembly member Linda Stender (D), who led the fight to provide the funding, said Christie made the cuts to appeal to antiabortion-rights conservatives.
The Christie administration has said low-income residents can receive health care services from other providers. However, Katherine Grant-Davis -- president and CEO of the New Jersey Primary Care Association, which represents 20 federal health centers -- said the current wait time for an obstetrical or gynecological appointment is four to 12 weeks, meaning that a pregnant woman might be in her second trimester before she could see a physician. The patient load at the group's clinics has increased by 124% since 2002, she added (AP/MSNBC, 5/11).