TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of a bill that included funding for Planned Parenthood has withstood a challenge from Democrats in the state senate.
The veto deprived the state’s leading abortion provider of money that is essential to its continued operation.
The $7.5-million cut in funding is part of Christie’s wide-ranging austerity program for cash-strapped New Jersey. Although the governor is pro-life, both his aides and senate Republicans were quick to emphasize that this was primarily a fiscal decision. The funding bill, S2139, was part of a trio of spending bills vetoed simultaneously because there was no money to pay for them.
The bill in question was a supplemental spending bill for “Women’s Health and Family Planning Services.” It was set to distribute $7,453,000 to 58 abortion businesses throughout the state. Of these facilities, 29 are run by Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortion services in the state and the nation. At least three of the businesses that were to receive funding provide abortions on site, and others refer patients for abortions.
The bill passed the House and Senate at the end of June 2010, with seven senate Republicans voting in favor of it after a proviso was added barring the use of funds to pay for abortions. The governor, however, balked at the scheme to pay for the bill by diverting money from the State Employees’’ Prescription Drug Program (SEPDP) and vetoed it.
One of the lead sponsors, Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, led an attempt to override the veto and initially had the votes to do so. However, the seven Republicans who originally voted in favor of the bill changed their votes when State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff informed them that the plan “would wipe our already inadequate reserve and place the SEPDP in an actual deficit of $5.6 million. This would place year-end prescription drug claims for active state employees and their dependents at risk.”
This loss of Republican support allowed the veto to stand.
Despite these setbacks, pro-abortion forces in the Senate reintroduced the funding in two new bills, S2293 and S2294. These new bills attempt to locate the money in other sources, including the Department of Corrections.
There is no guarantee that the seven pro-abortion Republicans will not support these bills if they find the revenue sources satisfactory, thus allowing them to pass with a veto-proof majority.
Jennifer Beck, R-Red Bank, one of the senators who switched her vote, said, “We clearly can’t spend money that doesn’t exist. I’d like to suggest we increase our own contributions to our health care and use that to fund family planning. Let’s join together to find another source of funding.”
The point was echoed by Sen. Diane Allen, R-Burlington, who said, “We can’t spend money we don’t have. Let’s find funding that really exists.”
Sen. Donald Norcross, D-Camden, has suggested selling the state’s box seats at the Meadowlands sports arena in order to restore the funding.
Supporters of the bill are quick to point out all of the women’s health services provided by this bill, including breast exams, pap smears, contraception and STD testing. Weinberg even boasted about “40,000 unplanned pregnancies” being prevented.
The most recent data, for the year ending June 2008, reveal that Planned Parenthood provided only 4,012 adoption referrals and 10,914 prenatal care services nationwide. By contrast, they provided 305,310 abortions. Fully one-third of their $1.2-billion budget came from government funding, and they reported profits of $115 million.
When the veto override failed, Planned Parenthood of Southern New Jersey claimed that this loss of funds was already forcing them to close one clinic, the South Jersey Women’s Center, located in a converted funeral home at 1044 Haddonfield Road in Cherry Hill. This building, however, remains active, although it no longer appears to be affiliated with Planned Parenthood.
Another South Jersey clinic, the Cherry Hill Women’s Center at 502 Kings Highway, Cherry Hill, also remains open. 40 Days For Life is maintaining a prayerful vigil at this location throughout October. Because of New Jersey’s lax abortion laws and the southern location of the Cherry Hill clinics, they are a magnet for out-of-state women seeking late term abortions, and minors seeking abortions without parental consent or notification. Claire Howson of 40 Days For Life frequently sees cars from Delaware and Virginia at the clinic. “I’ve even seen a school bus drop off teenage girls, and girls still in their Catholic school uniforms,” she said.
Bishop Joseph Galante of Camden, N.J., joined the members of 40 Days For Life to pray the Rosary at this location. Because abortion is so deeply embedded in New Jersey law and politics, the bishop prefers to focus on prayer rather than government action.
“The tragedy continues to be that we hold life so cheaply,” Bishop Galante said. “It is through prayer that hearts are changed. Legislation may change laws but it doesn’t change hearts, and what we really need is a change of hearts. A conversion. That’s what we pray for here.”
In 1982, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled, in Right to Choose v. Byrne, that state funds can be used to pay for “medically necessary” abortions for women who are eligible for state assistance. It is one of eight states ordered by a court to use taxpayer money to directly pay for abortions.
Early in his political career, Christie had been pro-abortion. It wasn’t until he had his own children that he changed his mind. “Hearing the strong heartbeat of my unborn daughter 14 years ago at 13 weeks gestation had a profound effect on me and my beliefs,” the governor said during his 2009 campaign. “The life of every human being is precious. We must work to reduce abortions in New Jersey through laws such as parental notification, a 24-hour waiting period and a ban on partial-birth abortion.”
New Jersey Right to Life is leading the continuing fight against state funding of abortions. Their executive director, Marie Tasy, said the group was “elated” at the results.
“We’re grateful that the governor cut funding in the first place and that veto survived the challenge. But with the two new bills being introduced, our work isn’t over yet.”
Thomas L. McDonald writes from Medford, New Jersey.