N.J. Senate Committee Passes Bill To Restore Family Planning Funding

June 20, 2013 — The New Jersey Senate Budget Committee on Tuesday passed legislation (S 2825) that would restore $7.5 million for family planning services for low-income women, the North Jersey Record reports. The 8-5 vote fell along party lines, with all Democrats voting in favor of the bill and Republicans voting against it.

The proposal now heads to the Senate floor. A companion measure (A 4172) is before the state Assembly (Linhorst, North Jersey Record, 6/18).

Gov. Chris Christie (R) cut the funding in his first budget as governor, and Democrats in the Legislature have been working to restore it ever since. Christie vetoed legislation in 2011 and 2012 that would have restored the funding, arguing that he opposes the use of public funds for family planning and women's health programs because of a lack of state money (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/26/12).

According to Democratic lawmakers, the cuts have forced six clinics to close. In 2009, the funding was distributed among 58 clinics served about 136,000 uninsured state residents.

Committee Debate

Although state law forbids the use of public money for abortions, opponents of the family planning funding have argued that payments to clinics that also provide abortions could free up other money for the procedure. "We all know that money is fungible," said John Tomicki, executive director of the New Jersey League of American Families.

Democrats on the committee argued that if the state can afford the estimated $24 million it will spend for a special U.S. Senate election this year, then it can afford to support women's health services.

"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," said state Sen. Linda Greenstein (D), a sponsor of the bill.

Medicaid Bill

The committee also approved a bill (S 2824) that would extend Medicaid family planning coverage to women with incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty level.

If the legislation becomes law, New Jersey would qualify for federal matching funds of $9 for each dollar the state invests (North Jersey Record, 6/18).