Action in Washington that some worry could have a dramatic effect on women’s health services. NJTV News Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron discussed the details with Correspondent Michael Hill.
Aron: In the final days of the Obama administration, President Obama signed a rule change that blocked states from withholding federal funds from clinics that perform abortions.
What President Trump signed yesterday was a bill that nullified that Obama rule.
It means that now if a clinic performs abortions, the states can block federal funding for other services like contraception, sexually transmitted infection treatments or fertility treatments, pregnancy care and breast and cervical cancer screening.
The Trump measure passed the Senate March 30 with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie.
So now, it’s up to each state to decide whether it wants to withhold federal funding from clinics that perform abortions.
Under the Hyde Amendment of 1976, federal funds have long been barred from paying directly for abortions.
This could dry up funding in some states for other women’s health services.
Hill: Michael, what does it mean here in New Jersey?
Aron: Well, here in New Jersey, Gov. Christie has been withholding $7.5 million a year to Planned Parenthood already, since 2010.
Every year, the Legislature puts that money back into the budget and the governor takes it right out through his line-item veto.
Under this new Trump approved rule, it will still be up to the governor and the Legislature to decide how much funding Planned Parenthood receives here. And they are likely to still disagree on the amount and the underpinning reasoning.
Hill: Michael, what’s been the reaction today?
Aron: Michael, we spoke to both sides on this.
Joan Fasinello of Life Choices in Phillipsburg says it’s great that Trump wants to stop using tax money to support abortion and that it should be up to each state.
On the other hand, we spoke to Casey Olesko of Planned Parenthood New Jersey who says this is just another assault on women’s rights by President Trump.
Early on he imposed what they call the “overseas gag rule” — no U.S. funding to any organization anywhere that promotes even the idea of abortion.
Also, the Affordable Care Act repeal bill would have defunded Planned Parenthood, she said.
And the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch was another blow against abortion rights, she added.
Meanwhile, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy said today he won’t allow New Jersey to go backwards on abortion, if he’s elected.
Hill: What does this mean for services for women here in New Jersey? Will they be lost?
Aron: According to Planned Parenthood, they already have been lost. Patient visits were down by 73,000 after Gov. Christie’s first budget cut. STIs are up 35 percent since 2009, Planned Parenthood says. And breast and cervical cancer rates are up, too.
The governor has long maintained that FQHCs — federally qualified health centers — have taken up the slack on that. But Planned Parenthood says FQHCs are overcrowded and cannot fully substitute for what is being lost.