Three months ago, the country was on fire for women’s health. Remember that rally for women’s health in Foley Square where thousands turned out to hear Congressman Anthony Weiner, Kathleen Hanna, Jasmine Burnett, Cecile Richards, and countless other champions for reproductive rights?
Well, a lot has changed since then, and I’m not talking about Weinergate. At the Rally for Women’s Health, I decided I needed to take a public stand and talk about my own experience as a proud patient of Planned Parenthood. I made a YouTube video explaining that I first started using Planned Parenthood as a teen with no money and nowhere to turn for private, safe, and affordable “well-woman” care. I sent it to everyone I could think of.
A few weeks later, I was invited by Planned Affiliates of New Jersey and Senator Frank Lautenberg to re-tell my story on the Planned Parenthood Truth Tour in Englewood, NJ. It was only after going back to my home state after being away at college that I realized how terrible things had become not only for women, but also for entire New Jersey families.
Last year, Governor Christie completely eliminated New Jersey’s state budget for women’s health and family planning. This funding helped provide basic reproductive health care services to over 136,000 New Jersey residents. I’m talking about gynecological exams, contraception, health screenings (blood pressure, anemia and diabetes), cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, HIV testing and counseling, pregnancy testing and pre-pregnancy counseling. All of this, totally slashed, throwing typical New Jersyians like me under the bus.
This forced many health clinics like Planned Parenthood to cut down their hours, and some have closed completely. Not only does limiting access to safe, affordable care affect the health of a population, but it is also a strain on our wallets. According to the Guttmacher Institute, adequate funding for family planning reduces state costs for pre-natal and delivery, abortion, welfare and social services. For every public dollar spent on family planning services, an estimated $4 is saved in Medicaid costs.
So, New Jersey, we are in more trouble than I thought. We need to find the fire from months ago and use it to win back our right to safe, affordable healthcare. I, for one, will continue to speak out. I already shared my story this past Monday, June 20th in front of the New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton. I hope you will speak out too!