Christie reversal on why he cut Planned Parenthood funding cuts sparks protest

NJ.com
Susan K. Livio
June 22, 2015
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TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie's boast that he is the only governor in New Jersey history to eliminate state funding for Planned Parenthood may play in conservative states, but it alienates most New Jerseyans who want women to have access to family planning services, protesters said Monday.

Chanting "My health! My life!" about three dozen women and a few men gathered in the Statehouse courtyard with state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) and Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden) to draw attention to the governor's remarks last week about cutting $7.5 million in 2010 for women's health centers.

At the time, the governor said the cuts were driven by a budget crisis, adding gynecological services and health screenings could be found at other state-supported facilities. Republicans who supported the money before refused to override the governor's veto based on the financial considerations.

Christie said in 2010 he eliminated the funds as part of a wide array of cuts to close a budget gap. But in speeches to conservative groups in February and again last week, the Republican governor, who is mulling a bid for president, boasted he had "vetoed Planned Parenthood funding five times out of the New Jersey budget."

But now that Christie has dropped "the facade" and explained his motive, Weinberg and Lampitt said they would push to reinstate the money in the budget, and call upon their Republican legislative colleagues to vote their conscience.

"Those of you who voted 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," Weinberg said. "This is New Jersey, a progressive state who cares about our families, who cares about our women, who cares about their health care. it is time to restore this money in the budget."

Roslyn Rogers Collins, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan New Jersey, said her center serving Essex, Hudson and Passaic counties, have had to do without $1.2 million a year since that funding cut. It forced them to close a clinic in Passaic County last year, she said.

"This is playing politics with people's lives," Collins said.

A Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey reported last month said 1.1 million women in 2013 were in need of contraception services because they did not have coverage or could not otherwise afford it.

Kathleen Fisher, president and CEO of the Family Planning Center of Ocean County said the Affordable Care Act expanded insurance coverage for many, "but it does not totally fix the problem."

She said 15 percent of women ages 18 and 54 lack health insurance still lacked consistent coverage because they bounce between Medicaid and employer-sponsored plans.

"If we do not adequately fund family planning services and expand Medicaid to cover family planning services we are hurting those among us who are the most vulnerable. It's time the governor recognize this and get on board," Fisher said.

"I hope the governor will take a good look at the constituents who stand here today. They come from the north and the south, female and male, from all walks of life," Lampitt said. "It's time to look at the real faces of the people of New Jersey and the fact that access to good health care keeps our economy going and keeps our women healthy."

Marie Tasy, executive director for New Jersey Right to Life, praised the governor and offered harsh words for the legislators who intend to revive the issue.

"This is nothing more than a shameful election year maneuver to use taxpayer money to fund the abortion industry, sadly one of the leadership's favorite core constituencies. Thankfully, Governor Christie has sided with the hard working taxpayers of New Jersey and rejected these measures," Tasy said.

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