TRENTON – The Assembly passed a contentious bill for women’s health care services by a vote of 44-29-1.
A4172/S2825 provides $7.45 million from the Fiscal Year 2013 general fund for Family Planning Services, and mandates that the monies cannot be used for abortion procedures. The money has been eliminated in three fiscal years and backers are arguing for its necessity.
There was a lengthy debate over this bill, with supporters such as Democrats Gabriela Mosquera and Valerie Vainieri Huttle championing the need for protecting critical health care such as cancer screenings and lamenting the centers that have closed.
But opponents such as Republicans Declan O’Scanlon and Jay Webber said the sky is not falling and supporters overstate the problem and they gave credit to the federally qualified health centers as meeting the needs of women. O’Scanlon said he has asked repeatedly to learn if anyone comes to his district office complaining of lack of health care access and no one has done so.
Webber also sought to bring out the fact that the money would go in some cases for contraception for minors and protested when Speaker Sheila Oliver said he was off topic. He argued the fact he was being gaveled out of order speaks volumes.
“It is unfair to say we are not funding women’s health care,” Republican Nancy Munoz said. Just because they want to bar funds from going to the types of services Planned Parenthood offers does not mean women’s health care needs are unaddressed, she said.
Mosquera pointed out, however, that with a projected budget of hundreds of millions of dollars it should not be difficult to direct $7.4 million to women’s health care.
Democrat John Burzichelli said tens of thousands are going without care because of the six centers that have had to close. “With this investment we can help people,’’ he said.
Democrat Celeste Riley said three centers have closed in her district that poor women needed, and even though there is a federally qualified health center many lack transportation to get to it.
“There are places in New Jersey where women don’t have access,’’ she said.
“The sky has fallen on a number of people already,’’ said Democrat Herb Conaway, a physician.