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Watson Coleman: Governor Has Made it Abundantly Clear that Women’s Health Doesn’t Matter

(TRENTON) — Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman on Friday called Governor Christie’s veto of legislation to fund women’s health centers not surprising, but indicative of his disregard for the plight of low-income women.

Watson Coleman was the lead Assembly sponsor of the bill (S-788/A-3204) Christie vetoed that would have appropriated $7,453,000 in funding for Family Planning Services grant for women’s health centers. Watson Coleman noted that Christie’s move is all the more shortsighted because studies show that preventative services provided by family planning clinics save taxpayers an estimated $3.74 for every $1 that is spent by the state.

“For two years, the Governor was able to hide behind the guise of fiscal prudence when vetoing this legislation. Given his rosy revenue projections for this year, there’s no reason why he should excise this funding when it provides such critical services women and low-income families.

“By continuing to make them the sacrificial lambs of his budget priorities, he’s playing games with people’s lives. These health centers provide important, life-saving services to those who would otherwise not have access to them. Since he first eliminated this funding, we’ve seen demonstrable drops in services.

“If this were really about the money, and not cow-towing to national conservative Republicans, the Governor would recognize that this investment actually saves the state money in the long-run through preventative care,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer/Hunterdon).

Since Governor Christie first eliminated this funding two years ago, Democratic lawmakers have continued to fight to restore the roughly $7.5 million needed to help provide approximately 131,000 women, children and families with access to routine gynecological exams; screening for high blood pressure, anemia and diabetes; breast and cervical cancer screening and education; screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections; contraception; HIV testing and counseling, pre-pregnancy counseling and education; pregnancy testing and confirmation and prenatal care.

Over the last two years, Christie’s cuts in funding have forced many clinics to scale back their services and hours and more than a handful throughout the state have closed. In 2011, the first full year after Christie eliminated the funding, statewide family planning providers have seen across-the-board decreases in vital services, including:

    26,000 fewer patients served compared with 2009 — a 19% drop;

  • 16,614 fewer clinical breast exams compared with 2009 — a 23.6% drop; and
  • HIV tests decreased by 6% from 2009