On Jan. 2, Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law a bill that appropriates $9.5 million to the New Jersey Department of Health for family planning services.
The legislation, Assembly Bill 5802, will replace federal funding for family planning services that are impacted by the Trump Administration’s implementation of the Title X gag rule, which limits access to health care and family planning resources.
At a press conference in Trenton, Murphy, surrounded by Lt. Gov. Shelia Oliver, Acting Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli and legislators said: “I can’t think of a better way to start off the New Year by allowing full access for women to family planning and reproductive services. It is a basic matter of health.”
“The federal government has once again put narrow political interests before the best interests of the American people by implementing the Title X gag rule, which blocks women from access to vital information and resources that are critical to their health,” said Murphy.
“Today, New Jersey is stepping up to replace federal Title X funding for family planning providers to ensure that New Jersey’s women and families have access to high-quality reproductive health care resources and family planning services,” said Murphy.
Acting Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said that she was grateful to the governor and the Legislature for protecting access to reproductive health care, and for ensuring that access is not interrupted, for tens of thousands of New Jerseyans.
Planned Parenthood said that it was forced out of participating in Title X, the nation’s only federal program for affordable birth control and family planning services, due to the Trump-Pence administration’s medically unethical gag rule, which prevents health care providers from giving their patients full information about their reproductive health options.
According to Planned Parenthood, “[i]n New Jersey, Planned Parenthood provides care to 70 percent of Title X patients in the state.”
Primary sponsors of the legislation include Assembly members Louis Greenwald, D-6th District; Joann Downey, D-11th District; Gordon Johnson, D-37th District; and Annette Quijano, D-20th District; Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District; and Sens. Loretta Weinberg, D-37th District; and Troy Singleton, D-7th District.
In a statement, Sweeney applauded the governor for signing the law, but also expressed concerns.
According to Sweeney, Murphy’s Executive Order 73 put a freeze on $235 million in spending approved by the Legislature and the governor, with vague language about appropriations that has jeopardized some state programs, like vote by mail.
“[A]s long as Executive Order 73 is in effect funding for the protection of women’s health is uncertain. The ‘gag rule’ was another attempt to deny doctors and other medical professionals the ability to provide their best advice and the best care to their patients, but the executive order has been denying funding for cancer patients and as long as it is in effect it could hinder funding for women’s health services.”
“The women of New Jersey,” said Sweeney, “deserve the best health care that Planned Parenthood and other clinics can provide, just as cancer patients seeking services in South Jersey do,” Sweeney said. “The Trump Administration wants to employ a gag rule to impose restrictions that are harmful to women, but Gov. Murphy is providing lip service as long as the executive order remains in effect.”
“The executive order was never necessary and revenues have continued to exceed expectations. The order has already resulted in the extermination of the state’s vote by mail program, delayed higher educational opportunities for New Jersey’s college students, and put services for cancer patients at risk. This unnecessary executive order must be rescinded to ensure women are not denied access to these crucial health care services,” Sweeney said.
In February 2018, Murphy signed legislation restoring $7.45 million in funding to Planned Parenthood and other women’s health facilities that had been cut during the Christie administration.
Murphy also signed legislation – Senate Bill 105/Assembly Bill 1656 – providing Medicaid coverage for family planning services to low-income individuals. With the signing, the New Jersey Department of Human Services created a new family planning benefit program, called Plan First, for women and men with incomes that are higher than traditional Medicaid eligibility. Launched in October 2019, it provides coverage for birth control, the HPV vaccine, family planning-related lab testing, and other targeted family planning-related health care needs.