If the Trump Administration’s proposal to cut back federal funding for family planning services is passed by Congress, four New Jersey counties risk losing their only Title X facility, family planning clinics that provide subsidized birth control, cancer screenings and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. This, along with other provisions of the proposed bill, could seriously restrict access to reproductive healthcare for low-income women and families, and men too.
Atlantic, Burlington, Hunterdon and Sussex counties each have a single facility that currently receives Title X funding and also performs abortions. Under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ new proposal, all funds for clinics that perform abortions — even if the facility does not use Title X money to do so — would be slashed. Across the four counties, this could leave 501,305 women without access to adequate reproductive healthcare within their immediate area.
The new rule jeopardizes affordable reproductive healthcare in the rest of the state, too. Most patients who seek Title X care in New Jersey do so at clinics that provide abortions — and are now at risk of being defunded. In 2017, that was 72 percent of all Title X patients in the state.
Many family-planning facilities cannot survive without federal aid, and for the individuals who rely on Title X funding for affordable healthcare, losing nearby clinics — let alone the only one in their county — poses a significant threat. People who are restricted by full-time jobs, limited access to transportation and the demands of raising children often find it difficult to travel far to receive family planning services. As a result, some forgo treatment instead.
U.S. Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman, Frank Pallone and Donald Norcross (all D-NJ) vehemently denounced the proposal to dismantle Title X during a press conference at Planned Parenthood in Trenton yesterday.
Pallone called it “the most extreme measure that they’ve come up with within the Trump Administration and Health and Human Services.”
“You’re talking about people who already have very limited access to healthcare, who oftentimes use a Planned Parenthood center as their only option, and now you’re going to say to them, ‘Sorry, this is not available to you.’ This is really extreme, and this is hurting the people who have the least ability to find healthcare services,” Pallone said.
When Gov. Chris Christie suspended $7.45 million in annual state funding for family planning clinics in 2010 — funding which Gov. Phil Murphy has reinstated — Casey Olesko of Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey said that there was a “considerable drop-off” of patients seeking services from Planned Parenthood and no uptick at other providers to indicate that people travelled elsewhere for reproductive healthcare.
“I would venture to assume that if those centers [in Atlantic, Burlington, Hunterdon and Sussex counties] did have to close, we’d probably see something similar,” Olesko said.
Watson Coleman, Pallone and Norcross are among several New Jersey leaders who have taken an active stance against the proposed restrictions. Last week, state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal joined the attorneys general of 12 other states in co-signing a letter to HHS strongly urging it to withdraw the proposed limits to Title X funding and services. In June, Gov. Phil Murphy voiced his opposition to the proposal in a similar letter to HHS that 13 Democratic governors co-signed.
“We are thrilled that all of our leaders in New Jersey are so supportive of reproductive healthcare,” said Olesko. “We are very grateful that they’re fighting on behalf of our patients and will continue to fight for them.”
Olesko said she hopes the letters “do not fall on deaf ears” in Washington, D.C. With the comment period on it having ended on July 31, the proposal awaits approval, amendment or rejection by the Trump administration.
In addition to causing the closure of several clinics that rely on Title X funding to stay afloat, the proposed changes would also enact a “gag rule,” prohibiting doctors from discussing abortion with patients or directly referring patients to facilities that perform abortions.
New Jersey received $8.8 million in Title X funding in 2017 and provided services to 89,975 patients.