NJ to set aside $45M in family planning funding in wake of court’s Roe reversal

LILO H. STAINTON, HEALTH CARE WRITER | JUNE 30, 2022

NJ Spotlight News

New Jersey leaders added $20 million to the state Department of Health’s budget for family planning facilities and services to the spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year.

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In the wake of the controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision on abortion, New Jersey will set aside at least $45 million to upgrade security at family planning facilities — including those that offer the procedure — and expand access to a host of reproductive services that now benefit some 155,000 residents annually.

Budget documents released late Monday — after lawmakers voted on the measure in committee — showed New Jersey leaders had added $20 million to the state Department of Health’s budget for family planning facilities and services to the spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, doubling the original proposal for this work. An additional $5 million for security at these sites is available through a grant program to be run by the state Department of Law and Public Safety. Lawmakers approved the fiscal year 2023 budget Wednesday, and Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to sign it Thursday, the last day of fiscal year 2022.

Legislative staff said Murphy’s office requested the extra family planning money, part of an additional $1.7 billion tacked on through behind-the-scenes negotiations that ended Monday. But the governor’s team said little about its intentions for these resources, which sources said could be used for additional security measures, to fund services for those without insurance and to pay for transportation, hotel rooms, child care and other uncovered services that can be prohibitively costly to patients.

Earlier this month, the nation’s top court overturned the 50-year-old decision that protected abortion rights nationwide, sparking an outpouring of emotion from both sides of the issue. While nearly two-thirds of Americans support a woman’s right to use the medical procedure, the issue remains highly divisive, and anti-abortion protesters have scaled up their opposition in recent days.

In recent weeks, clinic leaders have stepped up their requests for help funding security staff, safety cameras and other measures to further protect patients who visit any of the state’s 76 abortion sites. On Wednesday, lawmakers also passed measures to protect abortion providers from out-of-state prosecutions after several states threatened to charge those who assist in the procedure, as well as ensure the privacy of patients who travel here from out-of-state, who could face retribution at home in places that oppose its use.

What the budget proposal includes

New Jersey’s budget proposal now includes two health department line-items to fund family planning services, with $10 million available for facility upgrades and just over $30 million to help expand programming. Murphy’s office did say the money for facilities would be distributed through a new process, the Reproductive Health Security Grant program, to be established by the Health Care Facilities Financing Authority, an independent agency that sells public bonds to raise money for health care construction, after the budget is passed. The $5 million in security grants offered through the law department are separate from the financing authority’s fund.

Murphy, a second-term Democrat, prioritized women’s health during his first gubernatorial campaign in 2017, securing strong support from Planned Parenthood and other abortion allies. The first bill he signed into law after taking office in 2018 reinstated a $7.45 million annual commitment to women’s health and family planning services, resources suspended during the two terms that Republican Gov. Chris Christie was in office. Advocates said that the loss of funding over eight years — totaling nearly $60 million — contributed to the closure of six clinics, in five counties.

First lady Tammy Murphy has also worked with the Legislative Black Caucus and other allies to expand access to maternal health services, reduce maternal health mortality here — New Jersey’s rate is among the nation’s highest — and eliminate racial disparities. Black people are nearly seven times more likely to die of childbirth-related issues than white residents in this state. That push has led to new funding in the current budget, including a $15 million increase to funding for contraception, prenatal care and delivery services, $8.5 million to expand Medicaid to cover people for a year after giving birth; and $450,000 for a program to expand community doula service with culturally competent birth coaches.

Traditionally, the federal government has funded much of the family planning services nationwide through its Title X program, which distributes hundreds of millions annually, including more than $8 million to New Jersey in recent years. The health department was unable to provide updated figures Wednesday about Title X funding, which former President Donald Trump sought to drastically reform until a federal judge halted the changes.

The nonprofit New Jersey Family Planning League is charged with divvying up these and other public resources, which it distributes to its network of 57 health centers, more than two dozen of which are operated by Planned Parenthood. League officials said the group is working closely with Murphy’s office to identify the needs at these facilities that could be addressed through the new funding.

Editor’s note: The state budget appropriates $1 million to Public Media of New Jersey, a division of the WNET Group that oversees NJ Spotlight News.

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-06-30 03:22:38 -0700