The full Senate has approved a bill today sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Senate Health Committee Chairman Joe Vitale  to restore funding for health services for low and middle income women that had been eliminated by Governor Chris Christie the last two years. It's expected Christie will line-item veto the measure this year too.

The bill appropriates $7,453,000 in funding for Family Planning Services grants that had been eliminated from the FY 2011 budget, resulting in both the closing of facilities that provide women's health services and a reduction in the availability of such services.

"Two years ago, when the Governor de-funded women's health care programs, he made it harder for women in New Jersey to access basic health services such as cancer screening, AIDS and STD testing, and birth control," says Weinberg. "At the time that the Governor de-funded these programs, he claimed fiscal concerns, but every attempt we've made to restore funds using responsible budgetary alternatives has been dismissed.  Hopefully, the Governor will recognize that this issue isn't going away quietly, and he'll work with us to restore funding for these vital programs."

Vitale says, "While we all support responsible budgeting, $7.5 million out of a more than $500 million surplus is not shirking our commitment to fiscal responsibility, and in the end, will make a difference in the lives of men and women throughout our State. This bill will ensure that access to basic health care and family planning services is available when it is needed most."

The Assembly is scheduled to vote on the bill today as well. Its version is sponsored by Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman.

"For the last two years, women and low-income families have been the sacrificial lambs of the Governor's budget priorities," says Watson Coleman. "It's time to stop playing games with people's lives. These health centers provide critical, life-saving services to those who would otherwise not have access to them. This is a worthy investment that saves money in the long-run through preventative care."

Watson Coleman notes that the bill also implicitly states that funds cannot be used for abortion procedures.