Assemblyman Troy Singleton introduced legislation this week to ensure a critical safety net exists for women's health care should the federal government take steps to scale back or eliminate funding for family planning services.
Singleton had been crafting the measure proactively in the event that the federal government moves to restrict or defund women's healthcare services, a move that may prove all the more timely as the Trump administration unveils its proposed budget today, which reportedly takes the unprecedented step of eliminating all federal funding for any family planning facility that also provides abortion services.
"It appears more and more likely that the federal government is headed towards making draconian cuts to these vital health services," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "This extremely short-sighted move ignores the reality on the ground and would harm the most vulnerable among us. We need to be prepared to ensure these vital services are not interrupted or eliminated should this heartless proposal become a reality."
Singleton noted that the measure is similar to a law enacted in Maryland last month that will reimburse family planning organizations if there are any federal cuts to services, the first measure of its kind in the nation, which the state's Republican governor allowed to become law.
Specifically, the bill (A-4901) would ensure the continued access to family planning services in New Jersey by establishing the Access to Family Planning Services Program in the Department of Health. The program would provide annual grants to eligible providers for family planning services delivered in the state in amounts equal to, or greater than, the amount received by the eligible family planning provider in federal Fiscal Year 2016 for services delivered pursuant to Title X of the federal Public Health Service Act.
"Recent actions by the federal government to restrict health care access for low income women make it more important than ever that New Jersey step up and stand with Planned Parenthood," said Christine Sadovy, Legislative and Political Director for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey. "We're thankful for the support of our leaders in the legislature in their efforts to protect the reproductive health care safety net."
The bill defines "eligible family planning provider" as a health care facility that is licensed under state law and that provided services funded under Title X as of December 31, 2016, and that subsequently becomes ineligible for Title X funding due to the enactment of any federal law or regulation that excludes the health care facility from participating in Title X on the basis of something other than its ability to deliver family planning services.
"For many women in low-income communities, family planning providers are their first line of defense. Without the preventative services they offer, many of these women would overlook pressing health needs until they become a crisis, forcing them to visit emergency rooms where services are far more costly and often come too late. This contradicts smart public policy and ends up costing the public more in both dollars and lives. We can't afford to let this become the reality," added Singleton.
The program will not prohibit an eligible family planning provider from offering a service if the service is within the scope of practice of the provider, and will not limit the scope of services for which an eligible family planning provider may offer referrals. The bill requires that the program provide a comprehensive system of family planning services with an emphasis on prevention, education, individualized care, and appropriate case management, and that family planning services be provided on a sliding scale fee basis according to ability to pay.
The legislation was officially introduced on Monday, May 22, and is also being sponsored by Majority Leader Louis Greenwald and Assembly Democrats Eliana Pintor Marin, Vince Mazzeo, Joann Downey and Elizabeth Maher Muoio.