Did you know that New Jersey's governor eliminated family planning from his state’s budget – and then vetoed a bill to restore the funding?
This past winter, Gov. Chris Christie (R) eliminated $7.5 million in family-planning funds from New Jersey’s budget. In response, pro-choice lawmakers passed a bill (NJ S.B.2139) that would have restored funding to the 58 clinics statewide that were faced with a 25-percent budget cut as a result of the governor’s decision. Unfortunately, Gov. Christie chose to veto the bill, again acting to take away low-income individuals’ access to contraceptive services, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and preventive health screenings. The funds would not have been used to pay for abortion care; the bill passed by the legislature explicitly prohibited state funding for abortion services. Furthermore, only three of the 58 clinics affected even offer abortion as an option. Gov. Christie claimed budgetary concerns as his motivation for the veto, even though the bill would have secured $9 in federal matching funds for every $1 spent by the state of New Jersey. The veto leaves New Jersey as the only state to completely eliminate state funding for family planning in 2010.
As a direct result of the governor’s veto, clinics across the state immediately cut hours, laid off employees, and closed clinics. Marilyn Lindenmuth, director of health services at FamCare Inc., noted that many of the men and women to whom her organization had previously provided services are uninsured, without transportation, and “probably will not get health care at all” because of the elimination of state funding.
Pro-choice lawmakers subsequently pledged to overturn the governor’s veto, an action requiring votes from 27 of the 40 members (a two-thirds majority) of the state Senate – including the votes of four Republicans. After six Republican state senators – all of whom had voted for the original bill – changed their position and announced opposition to the bill in August of 2010, hopes that pro-choice legislators would be able to overturn the governor’s veto seemed doomed.
Susan K. Livio, N.J. Gov Chris Christie Vetoes $7.5 Million Family Planning Grant, NorthJersey.com (July 23, 2010); S.B. 2139, 214th Gen. Assem (Nj. 2010); Maya Rao, New Jersey Women’s Health Centers React to Cuts, Philadelphia Inquirer (July 28, 2010); Mary Jo Patterson, Family-Planning Clinics Feel Christie's Cuts, NJ Spotlight (August 23, 2010); Adrienne Lu, Restoring Money to New Jerseys’ Women’s Health Centers Appears Unlikely, Philadelphia Inquirer (August 4, 2010).