Family planning money passes in Senate

TRENTON – The Senate approved a bill that would appropriate $7.453 million for Family Planning services.

The bill passed 24-14 Thursday.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Loretta Weinberg, (D-37), Teaneck, said the money is needed because women deserve to have equal access to healthcare for screenings or reproductive healthcare.

“I’m hoping this is a new day,” she said about garnering bipartisan support for the bill (S2825). She said since it’s apparent that money is available for what she described as an “unnecessary” special election for the U.S. Senate, some state funds could be used to open some of the six  women’s health clinics that were shuttered.

Sen. Jennifer Beck, (R-11), Red Bank, said she has previously supported such legislation. But this year, she won’t, because she believes the Medicaid expansion will serve more than 104,000 women who require such services.

She said she checked with federally qualified health centers and said there have been few long waits.

“The growth has been relatively small,” she said.

But Sen. Joe Vitale, (D-19), Woodbridge, said family planning clinics provide more specialized services than the federally qualified health centers, and the money from S2825 would help support those family planning clinics.

“It’s an access issue,” he said.  

Another prior supporter, Sen. Diane Allen, (R-7), Burlington, asked about the timing of the bill.

“Why does it come up now,” Allen asked, adding why was the bill not previously mentioned during budget negotiations.  She didn’t cast a vote on the bill.

“The governor refused to accept it,” Senate President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), West Deptford, responded.

Sen. Robert Singer, (R-30), Lakewood, said the line item should have been included in the budget plan and not posed as a special appropriation. He called the maneuver “politically motivated.”

The money had been eliminated from budgets for fiscal years 2011-13.  The wording specifically states that the funds cannot be used for abortion services.

Family planning money passes in Senate