Assembly Democratic Bill to Restore Funding for Women’s Health Care Signed into Law

Assembly Democratic Bill to Restore Funding for Women’s Health Care Signed into Law

Mazzeo, Downey, Mosquera, Lampitt, Vainieri Huttle, Jimenez, Pintor Marin, Sumter Law Appropriates $7.45 Mill for Women’s Health Centers

TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo, Joann Downey, Gabriela Mosquera, Pamela Lampitt, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Angelica Jimenez, Eliana Pintor Marin, and Shavonda Sumter to restore state funding for family planning centers was signed into law on Wednesday.

The law (A-2134) provides $7,453,000 for the current fiscal year in supplemental funding for women’s health care grants through the state Department of Health.

“The health and well-being of women and children in New Jersey was facing threats from every angle for the past eight years – from Gov. Christie’s assault on women’s health centers to the uncertainty of the Affordable Care Act and the recent lapse in funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “Consequently, we made this legislation one of our first priorities for the new legislative session, now having a governor who was willing to sign it. It’s incumbent upon us to step up to the plate at the state level to ensure that access to vital preventive healthcare services like mammograms, cancer screenings, and prenatal care is a right, not a privilege.”

“Access to preventative screenings, routine exams and low-cost birth control are often scarce in many low income communities, but particularly so since the Christie administration cut funding for women’s health, forcing the closure of a number of women’s health centers throughout the state,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “Now, with Governor Murphy, we are finally able to make good on our promise to restore this funding once and for all.”

Despite being funded in every state budget since 1970, Governor Christie routinely eliminated the $7.4 million appropriation for women’s health care services in the state budget every year of his tenure. Assembly Democrats repeatedly attempted to restore the funding only to have it vetoed by Christie. By signing this legislation into law on Wednesday, Governor Murphy was able to direct this funding back to family planning centers throughout the state.

The sponsors noted that in 2009 this funding helped support life-saving services for over 136,000 patients, including cancer screenings, birth control, prevention and treatment of STIs, breast health services, Pap tests and other health screenings. As a direct result of Christie’s cuts, six out of 58 women’s health and family planning centers closed while other health centers had to cut back staff or hours. In 2013, New Jersey’s family planning providers saw at least 37,000 fewer patients compared with 2009 – a 27 percent drop in patients served.

“First and foremost, this appropriation provides critical healthcare services for women and children,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “But beyond that, it also saves taxpayer dollars that would otherwise be spent treating women and children in hospital emergency rooms after they have become seriously ill – a situation that should be avoided at all costs.”

“Women’s reproductive health has been at risk for the last eight years,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “From 2009 to 2013 there was a significant rise in breast and cervical cancer cases among New Jersey women and STD’s are on the rise as well. Restoring this funding is critical to public health for some of our least fortunate and will save taxpayers money in the long-run.”

“Access to things like life-saving cancer screenings and preventative health services should be a right, not a privilege,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “This is something we believe strongly in and that’s why we have continued to fight this fight for the last eight years. Now that we have a partner in the governor’s office, we are finally able to rectify the wrong that has been done to the vulnerable women and children of our state.”

“Between Gov. Christie’s repeated elimination of this funding and the attacks on women’s healthcare at the federal level, it’s more crucial than ever that we rise to the occasion in New Jersey and make sure struggling women and their children know we are here for them and their health is a priority,” said Jimenez (D-Bergen/Hudson).

“I want the women in this state to know that their voices are heard and their right to affordable healthcare and reproductive services will be protected,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This relatively small investment will pay enormous dividends in terms of providing access to critical care and peace of mind for those with little where else to turn.”

“Since this funding was cut in 2011, family planning centers throughout the state have continually turned patients away; with some centers having to close their facilities all together,” said Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “After eight years of depriving patients of treatment opportunities, we are finally able to put these funds back into the right hands and properly invest in saving the lives of women and children throughout New Jersey.”

The sponsors noted that the legislation expressly prohibits the funding from being used towards abortion services.