Assembly Panel OKs Democratic Measures to Restore Christie-Era Cuts to Critical Women’s Health Funding

The Assembly Health Committee met Monday for the first time in the new legislative session and approved a top priority for Assembly Democrats – a two-bill package that will restore the healthcare funding for low and middle income women and children that the Christie administration had cut for the last eight years.

The measures – sponsored by Gabriela Mosquera would restore the $7.45 million in funding for women’s health centers eliminated by Gov. Christie and expand Medicaid coverage under federal law to help serve some of the state’s poorest women.

The first bill (A-2134), sponsored by Mosquera would provide $7,453,000 for the current fiscal year in supplemental funding for Family Planning Services grants through the state Department of Health.

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.

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 low-income women and newborns. But beyond that, it also saves taxpayer dollars that would otherwise be spent treating women and infants in hospital emergency rooms after they have become seriously ill – a situation that should be avoided at all costs.

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