Roundup: New Jersey Family Planning Funds — Here We Go Again

Robin Marty

New Jersey state senate is meeting today to vote one more time on overturning Gov. Chris Christie's override of family planning funding to the state.

New Jersey state senate is meeting today to vote one more time on overturning Gov. Chris Christie’s override of family planning funding to the state.  The day should be a busy one for the body, which has been met with an onslaught of opinions from groups invested in the issue.

First, the day should start off with a rally.  Via New Jersey Newsroom:

The ongoing battle to restore $7.5 million to family planning clinics in the state will be met in front of the State House on Monday, September 20 at noon. That’s when a slew of women’s groups, including the NJ chapter of the National Organization of Women (NOW/NJ), the League of Women Voters, the National Council of Jewish Women, Health Professional and Allied Employees, the Women’s Political Caucus, and Women Advocating for Good Government (WAGS), will send representatives to call on women in the state to support Senator Loretta Weinberg’s ([D] District 37/Bergen County) bill to override Governor Chris Christie’s July veto of restored funding to Family Health Care.

Legislators are pushing their fellow politicians to consider overriding the veto, citing the need for more family planning access for the women of the state.  Nj.com reports:

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Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein is urging her state Senate opponent to join her in voting to restore $7.5 million in family planning funds.

Greenstein (D-Plainsboro) yesterday called on state Sen. Tom Goodwin, her opponent in the upcoming 14th District state Senate special election, to unite with her in an effort to restore the family planning and women’s health funds the governor vetoed in July.

“If the state Legislature does not override the governor’s veto and health care services are not restored, thousands of New Jerseyans will be left without access to critical care,” Greenstein said in a press release. “We cannot afford to leave these people out in the cold without preventative care, gynecological or prenatal treatment, or necessary screenings.”

Other legislators are making their case to the citizens of New Jersey, such as this letter in NorthJersey.com:

It shouldn’t surprise most New Jersey residents by now that Governor Christie’s misguided public policy even extends to women’s health issues. Apparently leaving senior, disabled and low-income residents vulnerable was not enough. Now essential clinical services for women are suddenly the latest target in his maligned cost-cutting crusade.

The budget for the 2011 fiscal year, passed in June, was vacant of funding necessary to support clinical family planning for a meager savings of $7.5 million; this is one of the major reasons why I voted in opposition. So along with several of my colleagues, and the leadership of Sens. Loretta Weinberg and Joseph Vitale, we sponsored a measure to restore funding, only for it to be rebuked by the governor’s midsummer veto.

The governor’s approach to this issue, which did not convey any sort of sensitivity to women’s health concerns, has all kinds of implications, among them precluding access to matching federal funds of about $20 million.

Planned Parenthood estimates that about 40,000 current patients will no longer be able to receive care; that is almost a third of the uninsured patients statewide who depend on its services. Their research suggests that for every dollar spent on public planning, $4 is saved in Medicaid costs. Without adequate family planning services for women, the state will be faced with even higher costs for treatment, and jeopardize access to proactive alternatives for women.

Which services will be limited as a result of the reduction in funding? One in particular is screenings for cervical cancer. The rate in New Jersey exceeds the national average. That is why access to Pap smears and vaccines is so vital. Another is breast exams. It will also affect STD testing, HIV testing and prenatal and postnatal care.

Now it will take opposition by two-thirds of both houses to override the governor’s veto. We have been here before.

It is critical that the Legislature override the governor’s veto and restore family planning funding.

To put it in perspective, New Jersey already ranks in the bottom third nationally of funding for family planning services. I suggest the governor realize the gravity of reducing family planning services.

The legislators who voted against this measure have another chance. They should reevaluate their positions and vote in favor of family planning.

John A. Girgenti

Hawthorne

The writer is a state senator representing the 35th Legislative District.

Even the media itself is editorializing on the need to pass the funding.  The Record writes:

THESE NUMBERS should tell the story of family planning clinics in New Jersey: 136,000 low-income citizens served last year, 40,000 unplanned pregnancies prevented, 28,000 HIV tests and 70,000 breast exams performed.

But there’s only one number that Governor Christie cites when it comes to women’s health: 7.5. As in the $7.5 million cut from the program to balance the state budget — each and every dollar that Trenton sent to 58 clinics across the state last year. As in the $7.5 million cost he used to justify his veto of the Legislature’s vote to reinstate the funding.

To an estimated 40,000 women now shut out of the clinics, without regular screenings for cervical and breast cancer, without access to affordable birth control or prenatal care, he says let them visit federally qualified health centers — generalists already coping with a growing underclass of uninsured New Jerseyans, not to mention those recently trimmed from the rolls of NJ FamilyCare. Let them eat cake.

Still, the worry is that although the bill passed originally with a veto-proof majority, 6 of the 7 Republicans who supported it said they would not override a veto.  Why?  Because even though it explicitly states no money will be used on abortion, Planned Parenthoods in the state would be a receipient of funding should the bill pass, and Republicans would rather see women suffer than have the group get any state dollars.

New Jersey Right to Life spokesperson Mary Tasy expresses their position in a New Jersey Newsroom editorial:

The truth of the matter is that Primary Health Care Facilities and/or FQHCs located throughout the state of NJ are available to provide comprehensive health care for women including those without the ability to pay. In addition, access to routine cancer screenings through the NJ CEED program will be available as well as hospital services through the Charity Care Program if needed.

Planned Parenthood supporters claim that none of the money will be used for abortion, but every single family planning clinic counsels and refers for abortion and some perform abortion. Everyone knows that all money is fungible; providing funding to Planned Parenthood effectively underwrites its abortion business. A recent former director of a Texas Planned Parenthood, Abby Johnson, explained it very clearly when she told interviewers, “Abortion is the most lucrative part of Planned Parenthood’s operations. Even though they’re two separate corporations, all of the money goes into one pot.”

So, how much help will women be missing out on if the veto is not overridden?  NorthJersey.com has the numbers:

The Women’s Health Care Bill, S-2139, would appropriate nearly $7.5 million for family planning clinics where patients receive tests for blood pressure, anemia, breast and cervical cancers, HIV/AIDS and diabetes, McNerney said.

The program helped about 97,000 uninsured people in 2009, with 70,000 women receiving breast examinations and 4,000 of those referred for additional testing, McNerney said.

It aided about 8,100 women, he said, adding that nearly 4,000 of those women also received Pap tests.

The fact that there is a fight to uphold the funding is “outrageous,” said Calabrese, who added that she is a breast cancer survivor.

“What has become of our society here in New Jersey when this sort of thing is being politicized?” Calabrese asked.

Mini Roundup: A Catholic church rescinded its invite to let a local Jewish group use its space for Yom Kippur services because the Rabbi was on the board of Planned Parenthood, and could “sex in space” research renew people’s interest in bring back funding to space programs?

Sep 19

Sep 18

Sep 17

Analysis Politics

Experts: Trump’s Proposal on Child Care Is Not a ‘Solution That Deals With the Problem’

Ally Boguhn

“A simple tax deduction is not going to deal with the larger affordability problem in child care for low- and moderate-income individuals," Hunter Blair, a tax and budget analyst at the Economic Policy Institute told Rewire.

In a recent speech, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested he now supports policies to made child care more affordable, a policy position more regularly associated with the Democratic Party. The costs of child care, which have almost doubled in the last 25 years, are a growing burden on low- and middle-income families, and quality options are often scarce.

“No one will gain more from these proposals than low- and middle-income Americans,” claimed Trump in a speech outlining his economic platform before the Detroit Economic Club on Monday. He continued, “My plan will also help reduce the cost of childcare by allowing parents to fully deduct the average cost of childcare spending from their taxes.” But economic experts question whether Trump’s proposed solution would truly help alleviate the financial burdens faced by low- and middleincome earners.

Details of most of Trump’s plan are still unclear, but seemingly rest on addressing child care costs by allowing families to make a tax deduction based on the “average cost” of care. He failed to clarify further how this might work, simply asserting that his proposal would “reduce cost in child care” and offer “much-needed relief to American families,” vowing to tell the public more with time. “I will unveil my plan on this in the coming weeks that I have been working on with my daughter Ivanka … and an incredible team of experts,” promised Trump.

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An adviser to the Trump campaign noted during an interview with the Associated Press Monday that the candidate had yet to nail down the details of his proposal, such as what the income caps would be, but said that the deductions would only amount to the average cost of child care in the state a taxpayer resided in:

Stephen Moore, a conservative economist advising Trump, said the candidate is still working out specifics and hasn’t yet settled on the details of the plan. But he said households reporting between $30,000 and $100,000, or perhaps $150,000 a year in income, would qualify for the deduction.

“I don’t think that Britney Spears needs a child care credit,” Moore said. “What we want to do is to help financially stressed middle-class families have some relief from child-care expenses.”

The deduction would also likely apply to expensive care like live-in nannies. But exemptions would be limited to the average cost of child care in a taxpayer’s state, so parents wouldn’t be able to claim the full cost of such a high-price child care option.

Experts immediately pointed out that while the details of Trump’s plan are sparse, his promise to make average child care costs fully tax deductible wouldn’t do much for the people who need access to affordable child care most.

Trump’s plan “would actually be pretty poorly targeted for middle-class and low-income families,” Hunter Blair, a tax and budget analyst at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), told Rewire on Monday.

That’s because his tax breaks would presumably not benefit those who don’t make enough money to owe the federal government income taxes—about 44 percent of households, according to Blair. “They won’t get any benefit from this.”

As the Associated Press further explained, for those who don’t owe taxes to the government, “No matter how much they reduce their income for tax purposes by deducting expenses, they still owe nothing.”

Many people still may not benefit from such a deduction because they file standard instead of itemized deductions—meaning they accept a fixed amount instead of listing out each qualifying deduction. “Most [lower-income households] don’t choose to file a tax return with itemized deductions,” Helen Blank, director of child care and early learning at the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), told Rewire Tuesday. That means the deduction proposed by Trump “favors higher income families because it’s related to your tax bracket, so the higher your tax bracket the more you benefit from [it],” added Blank.

A 2014 analysis conducted by the Congressional Research Service confirms this. According to its study, just 32 percent of tax filers itemized their deductions instead of claiming the standard deduction in 2011. While 94 to 98 percent of those with incomes above $200,000 chose to itemize their deductions, just 6 percent of tax filers with an adjusted gross income below $20,000 per year did so.

“Trump’s plan is also not really a solution that deals with the problem,” said Blair. “A simple tax deduction is not going to deal with the larger affordability problem in child care for low- and moderate-income individuals.”

Those costs are increasingly an issue for many in the United States. A report released last year by Child Care Aware® of America, which advocates for “high quality, affordable child care,” found that child care for an infant can cost up to an average $17,062 annually, while care for a 4-year-old can cost up to an average of $12,781.

“The cost of child care is especially difficult for families living at or below the federal poverty level,” the organization explained in a press release announcing those findings. “For these families, full-time, center-based care for an infant ranges from 24 percent of family income in Mississippi, to 85 percent of family income in Massachusetts. For single parents the costs can be overwhelming—in every state annual costs of center-based infant care averaged over 40 percent of the state median income for single mothers.”

“Child care now costs more than college in most states in our nation, and it is an actual true national emergency,” Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, CEO and executive director of MomsRising, told Rewire in a Tuesday interview. “Donald Trump’s new proposed child care tax deduction plan falls far short of a solution because it’s great for the wealthy but it doesn’t fix the child care crisis for the majority of parents in America.”

Rowe-Finkbeiner, whose organization advocates for family economic security, said that in addition to the tax deduction being inaccessible to those who do not itemize their taxes and those with low incomes who may not pay federal income taxes, Trump’s proposal could also force those least able to afford it “to pay up-front child care costs beyond their family budget.”

“We have a crisis … and Donald Trump’s proposal doesn’t improve access, doesn’t improve quality, doesn’t lift child care workers, and only improves affordability for the wealthy,” she continued.

Trump’s campaign, however, further claimed in a statement to CNN Tuesday that “the plan also allows parents to exclude child care expenses from half of their payroll taxes—increasing their paycheck income each week.”

“The working poor do face payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, so a payroll tax break could help them out,” reported CNN. “But experts say it would be hard to administer.”

Meanwhile, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton released her own child care agenda in May, promising to use the federal government to cap child care costs at 10 percent of a family’s income. 

A cap like this, Blank said, “would provide more help to low- and middle-income families.” She continued, “For example, if you had a family with two children earning $70,000, if you capped child care at 10 percent they could probably save … $10,000 a year.”

Clinton’s plan includes a promise to implement a program to address the low wages many who work in the child care industry face, which she calls the “Respect And Increased Salaries for Early Childhood Educators” program, or the RAISE Initiative. The program would raise pay and provide training for child-care workers.

Such policies could make a major difference to child-care workers—the overwhelming majority of which are women and workers of color—who often make poverty-level wages. A 2015 study by the EPI found that the median wage for these workers is just $10.31 an hour, and few receive employer benefits. Those poor conditions make it difficult to attract and retain workers, and improve the quality of care for children around the country. 

Addressing the low wages of workers in the field may be expensive, but according to Rowe-Finkbeiner, it is an investment worth making. “Real investments in child care bring for an average child an eight-to-one return on investment,” she explained. “And that’s because when we invest in quality access and affordability, but particularly a focus on quality … which means paying child-care workers fairly and giving child-care workers professional development opportunities …. When that happens, then we have lower later grade repetition, we have less future interactions with the criminal justice system, and we also have a lower need for government programs in the future for those children and families.

Affordable child care has also been a component of other aspects of Clinton’s campaign platform. The “Military Families Agenda,” for example, released by the Clinton campaign in June to support military personnel and their families, also included a child care component. The former secretary of state’s plan proposed offering these services “both on- and off-base, including options for drop-in services, part-time child care, and the provision of extended-hours care, especially at Child Development Centers, while streamlining the process for re-registering children following a permanent change of station (PCS).” 

“Service members should be able to focus on critical jobs without worrying about the availability and cost of childcare,” said Clinton’s proposal.

Though it may be tempting to laud the simple fact that both major party candidates have proposed a child care plan at all, to Rowe-Finkbeiner, having both nominees take up the cause is a “no-brainer.”

“Any candidate who wants to win needs to take up family economic security policies, including child care,” she said. “Democrats and Republicans alike know that there is a child care crisis in America. Having a baby right now costs over $200,000 to raise from zero to age 18, not including college …. Parents of all political persuasions are talking about this.”

Coming up with the right way to address those issues, however, may take some work.

“We need a bold plan because child care is so important, because it helps families work, and it helps them support their children,” the NWLC’s Blank said. “We don’t have a safety net for families to fall back on anymore. It’s really critical to help families earn the income their children need and child care gives children a strong start.” She pointed to the need for programs that offer families aid “on a regular basis, not at the end of the year, because families don’t have the extra cash to pay for child care during the year,” as well as updates to the current child care tax credits offered by the government.

“There is absolutely a solution, but the comprehensive package needs to look at making sure that children have high-quality child care and early education, and that there’s also access to that high-quality care,” Rowe-Finkbeiner told Rewire. 

“It’s a complicated problem, but it’s not out of our grasp to fix,” she said. “It’s going to take an investment in order to make sure that our littlest learners can thrive and that parents can go to work.”

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Legislator Confirms Vote on House Conscience Protections (Updated)

Christine Grimaldi

The Conscience Protection Act would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face supposed coercion to provide abortion care or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in abortion care. The Act allows providers to sue not only for threats, but also for perceived threats.

UPDATE: July 14, 10 a.m.: The House passed the Conscience Protection Act Wednesday night in a largely party line 245-182 vote. Prior to floor consideration, House Republicans stripped the text of an unrelated Senate-passed bill (S. 304) and replaced it with the Conscience Protection Act. They likely did so to skip the Senate committee referral process, House Democratic aides told Rewire, expediting consideration across the capitol and, in theory, ushering a final bill to the president’s desk. President Barack Obama, however, would veto the Conscience Protection Act, according to a statement of administration policy.

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote next Wednesday on legislation that would allow a broadened swath of health-care providers to sue if they’re supposedly coerced into providing abortion care, or if they face discrimination for refusing to provide such care, according to a prominent anti-choice lawmaker.

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) told Rewire in a Friday morning interview that House leadership confirmed a vote on the Conscience Protection Act (H.R. 4828) for July 13, days before the chamber adjourns for the presidential nominating conventions and the August recess. Pitts said he expects the bill to be brought up as a standalone measure, rather than as an amendment to any of the spending bills that have seen Republican amendments attacking a range of reproductive health care and LGBTQ protections.

The office of U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) had no immediate comment.

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Pitts’ remarks came during and after he hosted a “Forum on Conscience Protections” in the House Energy and Commerce Committee room to garner support for the bill.

Energy and Commerce Democrats boycotted the forum, a House Democratic aide told Rewire in a subsequent interview.

Legislation Builds on Precedent

Conscience protections are nothing new, the aide said. The latest iteration is a successor to the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (S. 1919/H.R. 940), which remains pending in the House and U.S. Senate. There’s also the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (S. 50) and similarly named bills in both chambers. The fiscal year 2017 Labor, Health, and Human Services funding bill, which guts Title X and Teen Pregnancy Prevention grants, includes the Health Care Conscience Rights Act.

At the leadership level, Ryan’s recently released health-care plan mimics key provisions in the Conscience Protection Act. Both would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face alleged coercion or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in abortion care. The Conscience Protection Act goes a step further, allowing providers to sue not only for threats, but also for perceived threats.

The proposals would also codify and expand the Weldon Amendment, named for former Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL), who participated in Pitts’ conscience forum. The Weldon Amendment prohibits states that receive federal family planning funding from discriminating against health-care plans based on whether they cover abortion care. Currently, Congress must pass Weldon every year as an amendment to annual appropriations bills.

Administration Action Provides Impetus

There hadn’t been much public dialogue around conscience protections with the exception of some anti-choice groups that “have really been all over it,” the aide said. The National Right to Life issued an action alert, as did the Susan B. Anthony List, to galvanize support for the Conscience Protection Act.

The relative silence on the issue began to break after the Obama administration took a stand on abortion care in June.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights rejected anti-choice groups’ “right of conscience” complaint against California’s requirement that insurance plans must cover elective abortions under the definition of “basic health-care services.” Anti-choice groups had argued the California law violates the Weldon Amendment, but the administration found otherwise.

The California decision reinvigorated support for the Conscience Protection Act, the aide said. Ryan’s earlier health-care plan also specifically references the decision.

“We think this is going to be a big issue for us throughout the rest of this Congress,” the aide said.

Aide Outlines Additional Consequences

Beyond creating a private right of action and codifying Weldon, the Conscience Protection Act contains additional consequences for abortion care, the aide said.

The legislation would expand the definition of health-care providers to employers, social service organizations, and any other entity that offers insurance coverage, allowing them to raise objections under Weldon, the aide said. The aide characterized the change as a direct response to the California decision.

The legislation also broadens the list of objectionable services to include facilitating or making arrangements for abortion care, according to the aide.

The Republican-dominated House is likely to pass the Conscience Protection Act. But the aide did not expect it to advance in the Senate, which would all but certainly require a 60-vote threshold for such a controversial measure. More than anything, the aide said, the bill seems to be catering to anti-choice groups and long-time proponents of conscience clauses.

“The House oftentimes will pass these kinds of anti-choice proposals, and then they just go nowhere in the Senate,” the aide said.

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