STD Rates in NJ Skyrocket Since Family Planning Budget Cuts in 2010
In honor of National Women’s Health Week (May 8-14), Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo and Senator Loretta Weinberg joined Planned Parenthood and the Family Planning Association of New Jersey to call for the restoration of funding for family planning services in the New Jersey state budget. This funding, which was a longstanding line item in the budget until it was eliminated by Governor Christie in 2010, provided for vital preventive reproductive health services, including breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS.
“Year after year we attempt to restore this critical funding for women’s health — only for it to be vetoed each time by the Governor. It’s time we stop playing politics with women’s health. Over a million New Jersey women are in need of vital health services like cancer screenings and family planning. In the end, our investment in accessible and affordable healthcare for women will save dollars and more importantly save lives,” added Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo. “I’m proud to be sponsoring this crucial piece of legislation that will have a real impact on the lives of women across our state.”
“Family planning and preventive health services are part of the basic health care that everyone deserves, regardless of their financial circumstances. The governor’s refusal to fund these services has had a significant impact on access and the health care of women in our state,” said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg. “We remain steadfast in our effort to ensure that cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, and birth control are accessible to women across New Jersey. I will be introducing legislation to restore $7.5 million in the current budget. We are also committed to restoring funding in the proposed spending plan so that women can get the health care they need.”
Assemblyman Mazzeo is the first prime sponsor of A3492, which would restore the $7.45 million in funding to the budget. This funding, at the time it was eliminated from the budget, accounted for less than 0.022 percent of the entire statewide budget – a drop in the bucket for keeping New Jersey’s women, men, and families healthy.
“Investing in family planning funding makes economic sense. For every dollar we invest in family planning services, we save seven dollars in the long run in associated costs, such as averted unintended pregnancies and prevented sexually transmitted infections,” said Casey Olesko of Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey.
A report released by Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey, Women’s Health at Risk, paints an alarming picture of the real-world consequences for women and men in New Jersey when politicians block access to and defund basic family planning services. Since 2009, the last year that family planning funding was included in the state budget, the number of cases of bacterial sexually transmitted diseases has increased more than 27 percent statewide. In more than one-third of New Jersey counties, the increase has been nearly 50 percent or above. Sexually transmitted infections, if left untreated, can lead to serious health issues, like infertility and certain types of cancer.
Additionally, more than 1.1 million women in New Jersey are in need of contraceptive services and supplies, and nearly 40 percent are in need of contraception that is publicly funded, a 5 percent increase since 2010. The ability to plan, prevent, and space pregnancies is directly linked to benefits to women, men, children, and society, including more educational and economic opportunities, healthier babies, more stable families, and a reduced taxpayer burden.
A former Planned Parenthood patient, Mariel DiDato, underscored the real-life consequences of these cuts. As a high school student, DiDato escorted a friend who had been sexually assaulted to their local Planned Parenthood health center, where the friend received much needed time-sensitive care. However, several years later, when Mariel herself needed care and sought services at the same health center that had treated her friend with kindness and compassion, she discovered that the health center had closed. Although Mariel had the ability to drive to the next nearest center 40 minutes away, other women in her area might not have been so lucky.
“I wonder what has happened to the women and girls not only in my hometown, but also in other areas of New Jersey, where family planning health centers were forced to close their doors or reduce their hours and services. I wonder how many women cannot afford the full cost of these vital preventive services. We will not stand for this any longer,” said DiDato.
Although more New Jersey residents have health insurance coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act, nearly 295,000 women of reproductive age (15-49) were uninsured in New Jersey in 2015. Investing in family planning will help New Jersey women get access to life saving cancer screenings, birth control, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, and the preventative health care they need.
“Family planning agencies are often the gateway to primary health care services for low income and working families, and our providers see this in the work they do every day. We are so appreciative of our supporters and champions in the Legislature who remain committed to restoring funding, services, and access to reproductive health care,” concluded Kate Clark with the Family Planning Association of New Jersey.