By Brenda Flanagan
Protesters wearing pink carried signs proclaiming solidarity with Planned Parenthood and rallied across from the State House against Gov. Christie’s expected line item budget veto of state funding for family planning clinics. Even though a recent poll says 65 percent of New Jersey residents support Planned Parenthood, state lawmakers have never managed to override the governor.
“And I’m going to tell you today that I am going to put the bill up for an override to see if we can get it accomplished. And hopefully across the aisles they will understand that they either stand with Planned Parenthood, that polls at 65 percent, or under the wing of Gov. Christie, who’s polling at 15 percent. We’ll see which side they want to be on,” said Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto.
“Well, we’re not done. Unfortunately the Republicans have stood against us on this issue. They can’t stand much longer,” Senate President Steve Sweeney said.
Advocates angrily noted, Christie’s budget cuts run counter to public opinion. A just-released Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics poll shows 77 percent of New Jerseyans support federal funding for reproductive health services and 78 percent support state funding. Gov. Christie cited a tough economy and his opposition to abortion when he consistently vetoed a $7.5 million budget line item for family planning clinics, some $50 million total over seven years.
“Many of us have stood in the rain and protested and done everything to no avail because he’s so proud on how he strikes the veto with his magnificent pen, playing with women’s lives. And I am sickened and I’m sure you are,” said Political Director for Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters Lizette DelGado.
The cuts starved services and six clinics closed. Planned Parenthood opponents say health care is still available in New Jersey, but the CDC reports the rate of sexually transmitted diseases have spiked.
“Since 2009, the number of cases of bacterial STDs, like gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis, has risen to a tune of 35 percent across the state,” said Loretta Winters, president of NAACP Gloucester County.
Patients at Planned Parenthood received 121,000 tests for HIV and sexually transmitted infections and 37,000 cancer screenings last year. But the agency also performed almost 8,000 abortions in 2015 and staunch abortion opponents continue to vow opposition. Democrats said failing an override, they’ll move to restore funding after Christie leaves office.
“We are fighting this battle for my granddaughter and these girls who are with me now. It’s tiring, it’s exhausting to have to keep fighting them, but we’re all up to it. Aren’t we?” asked Sen. Loretta Weinberg.
The partisan battle continues on the federal level. In April, the president signed into law a bill that permits states to withhold federal money from organizations that provide abortions — that’s worth $16 million for New Jersey family planning facilities.
We asked Gov. Christie’s office whether he would withhold that federal funding. We got no answer. Meanwhile, the House bill to repeal and replace Obamacare included a measure to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood. No word on whether that’s in the Senate version — nobody’s seen it.