Just in time for the 2016 Republican primaries, Gov. Christie is changing his explanation for a controversial policy decision he made as governor.
In 2010 Christie vetoed $7.5 million in funding for family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood, saying the money was duplicative and the state couldn’t afford it. He went on to issue similar vetoes four more times, prompting six clinics to close and cut back hours while triggering a reduction in the number of HIV tests, breast exams and other clinical services given to women who visit the centers. The $7.5 million was a long-standing item in the state budget, and the earmark was eligible for a 9-to-1 match if the women who used the clinics qualified for Medicaid.
Over the years Christie was repeatedly asked about the vetoes and he repeatedly cited that this was a financial decision and not one based on his pro-life beliefs. The veto statements never mentioned abortion — just money.
But on Thursday, Christie’s explanation changed. Speaking to the conservative CPAC conference – an important pit stop for potential Republican presidential candidates wooing the conservative base — Christie was asked to prove his pro-life bonafides.
“I’m pro-life, I ran as a pro-life candidate in 2009 unapologetically, spoke at the pro-life rally on the steps of the Statehouse — the first governor to ever speak at a pro-life rally on the steps of the Statehouse — and vetoed Planned Parenthood funding five times out of the New Jersey budget,” he said.
“Yeah!” responded his questioner, talk radio host Laura Ingraham. The audience applauded.
“And I have always thought, Laura, that what the people have the right to know is what you really believe and feel in your heart. People make certain assumptions because you’re from New Jersey, and you’re a Republican from New Jersey. And what they should do is look at my record. And when you look at my record on those issues it has been strong and resolute.”
Back in New Jersey, vetoing Planned Parenthood funding was most assuredly not an example of his “strong and resolute” pro-life record. In fact, the $7.5 million annual funds weren’t even to be used to perform abortions. As Christie told NJTV’s Michael Aron in 2013, when he was running for reelection in largely pro-choice New Jersey, this was solely about saving cash.
“It doesn’t bother you that public dollars that come from both pro-life and pro-choice people go to Planned Parenthood clinics?” Aron asked.
“That’s not the issue,” Christie said. “The issue is duplication of state services in a state budget that when I came in here that was incredibly, incredibly distressed.”‘
Christie’s explanation at the time was that money to the family planning clinics wasn’t necessary because he was generously funding women’s health through other means. In 2013 he cited a $10 million increase in reimbursements so Federally Qualified Health Centers, or FQHCs, could treat the uninsured. At that point 31,000 fewer females were going to family-planning centers every year due to this vetoes — a 28 percent drop — but the number of women served by FQHCs had gone up by 50,000.