TRENTON – Women’s health care is under assault, two legislators said this afternoon as they called on the Christie administration to restore millions of dollars cut from the budget.
Gov. Chris Christie has shown “a hostile disregard’’ to the needs of women as part of his right-wing political agenda, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, (D-37), Teaneck, said.
And colleague Sen. Nia Gill, (D-34), Montclair, echoed her statements, saying Christie has used women’s health care “as a pawn in a political game” she called “unconscionable,’’ and said it’s time for women to speak frankly about their needs.
Earlier in the day, the Senate Commerce Committee advanced a bill they co-sponsored, S792, that would mandate health insurance coverage for comprehensive ultrasound breast screenings, which doctors and patients said can be more effective than mammograms that can be stymied by dense tissue.
With this being Women’s Health Week in New Jersey, the senators renewed the call for Christie to restore cuts that have fallen especially hard on lower-income women and their families.
Weinberg and Gill want restored in the fiscal year 2013 budget $7.5 million for family planning that had been removed from the fiscal year 2011 budget. In addition, they want $1 million for family planning under Medicaid that can be matched by $9 million in federal funds.
Six family planning clinics have closed and more than 12 others have reduced services and laid off staff as a result of Christie’s cuts, Weinberg said.
And the administration can’t be allowed to use the recent revenue shortfalls as an excuse to not restore funding, according to Weinberg. She said that at a recent budget hearing she learned of $6 million that was supposed to be used for women’s work force training but instead was “lapsed’’ into the general fund.
The money is there, she said, and the issue of women’s access to affordable health care must be treated like the priority it has become.
“We must speak truth to power,” Gill said.
Breast cancer screening
Two physicians championed the ultrasound bill that cleared the committee today.
Dr. Lisa Weinstock, who runs Women’s Digital Imaging in Ridgewood, and Dr. Nancy Elliott, director of Montclair Breast Center, explained that the bill is more than just about providing insurance.
It’s also about empowerment, they said, because a vast majority of women are not aware of the problem of dense tissue masking mammogram diagnosis.
Mammography misses breast cancer in at least 40 percent of the women who have dense tissue, Weinberg and Gill said in a release.
Their bill would mandate that mammography reports include information on tissue density, among other things, that would increase a woman’s chances of detection.