If you value Planned Parenthood like 65 percent of NJ, stay clear of these candidates | Editorial

Posted Nov. 2, 2018

New Jerseyans already know what happens when we defund Planned Parenthood, which is on almost every congressional Republican's list of Things To Do, regardless of the appalling consequences.

We had a governor who pulled the plug on family planning funding for eight years. In the end, Chris Christie's elimination of $55 million resulted in the closure of six facilities and 33,000 fewer patients receiving medical care statewide.

Result: Sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia and syphilis, jumped 35 percent between 2009 and 2015.

There was also a 5-percent increase in breast and cervical cancer, with a spike among women of color, who are more likely to use Planned Parenthood - a 6.6 percent increase among black women, a 25-percent surge among Latinas. And the number of news HIV cases spread from sexual contact increased.

These were just a few effects of New Jerseyans when access to reproductive health care was reduced. Who wants to go back thereexactly?

Meet your Republican candidates for Congress.

Incumbents Leonard Lance, Tom MacArthur, Chris Smith and candidate Jay Webber all have supported the defunding of Planned Parenthood, which is not surprising, since they belong to a party that often views women's sovereignty as a political pinata.

The GOP has long targeted Planned Parenthood, which it equates with expanding access to abortion, even though federal funds cannot be used for that constitutionally-protected procedure. And it hardly matters that Planned Parenthood has done more than any other organization in the last century for women's health, or that it is the only place for 4 million low-income women to go for cancer screenings, STD testing, prenatal care, and birth control, the latest GOP target.

Nor do they seem to get that funding of family planning facilities prevents 2 million unintended pregnancies each year, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Still, Assemblyman Webber, running in the 11th District against Mikie Sherrill, has a record on women's issues that borders on hysterical. He has voted against funding for women's health services, and he is against Medicaid coverage for family planning for just above the poverty level. He even voted against allowing birth control prescriptions from state-sanctioned plans to be extended from 3 to 6months.

And on his website, Webber also gives credence to the mendacious"Planned Parenthood sells baby parts" story, which led to more than a dozen state and federal investigations and found no wrongdoing.

Lance has voted to defund Planned Parenthood nearly a dozen times, but now he's trying a political dodge: He proposes separating health services from abortion services -- never mind that the latter is not federally funded, and never mind that the right to choose is often a health issue.

MacArthur's record speaks for itself: His career is defined by his effort to wreck the Affordable Care Act, and every ACA repeal bill called for excluding Planned Parenthood from using Medicaid funds. That's a direct attack: Three-quarters of public dollars spent on family planning are Medicaid dollars.

Then there is Smith, an anti-choice crusader for four decades, who is defending his 4th District seat against Navy veteran Josh Welle. He is the driving force behind Health and Human Services' latest effort to enforce the so-called "gag rule," which prohibits Planned Parenthood from discussing abortion, lest it risk its Title X funding.

It begs the question: If a Planned Parenthood patient has a condition that would severely affect her health - say, she discovers she's pregnant after a cancer diagnosis and needs to terminate the pregnancy - how could she make a life decision if her doctor is gagged? We asked. Smith didn't respond.

These candidates might consult the last Rutgers-Eagleton poll, which found 77 percent of New Jerseyans in support of federal funding for reproductive health services for lower-income women; 84 percent support Medicaid paying Planned Parenthood for reproductive and preventative care; and 76 percent want birth control covered. Overall, Planned Parenthood has 65 percent approval, which matches the national mood.

Yet Planned Parenthood now faces the most challenging time in its history, perhaps since Margaret Sanger courageously opened a birth control clinic in a Brooklyn brownstone 102 years ago. And only informed voters -- men and women alike -- can protect it.

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