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O’Donnell Signs on to Legislation to Reinstate Funding Vetoed By Christie

Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell today called upon Governor Christie and his Republican colleagues to support new bills he is co-sponsoring that would reinstate funding for women’s health centers across all of New Jersey. The bills were introduced today after the Senate – due to a lack of Republican support – was unable to override the Governor’s veto of $7.5 million in funding for family planning centers throughout the state.

“The Governor’s cuts are not only short-sighted, but will also impact those most in need among us. Cutting funding and not addressing the health needs of the most vulnerable will lead to higher expenses later on for the state,” said O’Donnell (D-Hudson).

Assemblyman O’Donnell’s bills would reinstate funding for family planning centers throughout the state, which serviced more than 136,000 patients last year. Not only did these centers help prevent 40,000 pregnancies and 19,000 abortions. Women’s Heath Centers save the state more than $150 million, and also provide extensive services that include: birth control; routine gynecological exams; prenatal care; screenings for high blood pressure, anemia, diabetes, sexually transmitted infections, and breast and cervical cancer; as well as critical education and outreach.

The 31st District has been particularly impacted by the Governor’s funding cuts, as the Bayonne Women’s Health & Family Planning Center will be losing $400,000 – all of its state funding. Other sites across the state are also in the process of closing or scaling back hours and services in light of the funding cut. It is estimated that roughly 40,000 people seeking services will be turned away this year due to the lack of funding.

“Funding for women’s health is a community issue. Anyone who has a mother, a sister, a wife, a daughter, a grandmother or other important female in his or her life should understand how vital this funding is to the health and well-being of not only our female population, but to our entire society,” O’Donnell said. “Without this funding, the uninsured and people of modest means will go without.”

The first piece of legislation that O’Donnell is co-sponsoring mirrors the vetoed legislation, but scales back the appropriation from $7.5 million to $5 million and identifies a new funding Dest. Under the bill, family planning centers would be supported by $5 million in unexpended funds from FY 2010 that are part of an account set aside to pay counties for housing certain prisoners. Notably, the new legislation reiterates the provision in the vetoed legislation that bars public dollars from being used to fund abortions.

The second bill directs the state to immediately apply for additional Medicaid coverage for family planning services available under the recently enacted federal health care reform law. Under the current state plan, the Medicaid program only covers family planning services for individuals with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. However, the new provision in the federal health care reform law created a state option to provide Medicaid coverage for family planning services to individuals with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. States exercising this option will receive nine dollars in federal reimbursement for every dollar they spend for family planning services.

‘I call upon all those in elected office to help us reinstate this funding and contribute to the betterment of our community as a whole,” added O’Donnell. “We have identified budget-neutral funding that would otherwise sit idle while women and families are denied access to the critical health services they deserve.”