Priorities for 2015-16:
UULMNJ HEALTH/REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE TASK FORCE
UULMNJ Issues Conference – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2015
Task Force Session Summary Report
- Nine people attended the task force meeting. Most people had not been to a Health/RJ task force meeting, therefore the meeting began with people introducing themselves and explaining their interest in Reproductive Justice.
- Materials were available both in the conference packet and at the task force meeting. Of particular interest were the materials from the UUA: The Statement of Conscience that was approved by the General Assembly 2015 and the information sheet, “Two Things Every UU Should Know about Reproductive Justice. Some time was spent in explanation of the need to become conversant with the paradigm of reproductive justice as distinct from reproductive health, rights or choice. Each is more limiting than RJ which came out of the women of color movement who coined the phrase at the U.N. Women’s Conference in Cairo Egypt, in 1994. Intersectionality with racial justice was emphasized.
Other materials available:
- “How to Really Defend Planned Parenthood” by Katha Pollitt, 8/5/2015 NY Times Opinion Page
- “The Dark History of the Right’s Graphic, Misleading Abortion Images” by Sarah Erdreich, 10/8/2015
- “The War on Planned Parenthood Is Also an Assault on Poor Women of Color” by Michelle Chen, 8/2/2015
- The New “Jane” Crow: Black Women Are The New Target For Mass Incarceration by Jeffrey L. Boney, 8/5/2015
- We welcomed our speaker, Kate Clark, Government Relations Director for the New Jersey Family Planning League (NJFPL) and the Family Planning Association of New Jersey (FPANJ). Ms. Clark addressed many topics related to current issues in NJ. She helped the group to understand the funding for family planning by differentiating among the funding sources. First she explained federal Title X funds which “— is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services.” It was enacted in 1970 and is currently administered by NJFPL. Clinics are funded in all 21 counties. Currently 14 of the counties are served by Planned Parenthood clinics. The remainder are served by county health departments and other clinics. New Jersey Title X agencies “provide many health care services, including contraceptive services and counseling, breast and cervical cancer screenings, test and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, HIV testing, general health screenings for high blood pressure and anemia and community education on a wide range of health topics.”
Most of the group knew that in 2010 a NJ state budget line that allocated $7.4 million for basic reproductive health care services was eliminated. It resulted in 6 out of 58 health and family planning centers closing and others cutting back in staffing and hours. Our speaker testified before the NJ Assembly in March 3, 2015 and urged for restoration of the budget line. The NJ State budget had a longstanding budget line going back to the 1970’s that supported reproductive health care. In 2009 the line item of $7.4 million supported 16 agencies to support 58 clinic sites. These were the same sites that NFPL supported with Title X funds. These clinics saw 136,000 women and men, providing 70,000 breast screenings 65, 000 Pap tests. In 2013 family planning centers saw at least 37, 000 fewer patients compared to 2009. While the family planning providers work hard to meet the needs of women in NJ, the lack of funding makes it very difficult to provide care to the ever increasing number of women in need of family planning services. Attempts each year to have the line item restored in the state budget have been met with a gubernatorial veto.
Ms. Clark also spoke about Medicaid reimbursement funding in NJ. While there has been expansion of Medicaid under the ACA (known as NJ Family Care), the backlog in getting benefits is acknowledged to be extensive. Medicaid would cover all reproductive health care services for women who qualify including abortion, it can take up to 60 days and longer to finalize eligibility and it often does. This is clearly much too long if a woman in pregnant and wants to end the pregnancy. A woman must therefore seek other funding if she is pregnant and chooses to have a safe and legal abortion. All of the funding cuts clearly impact access for women and limits their options for care.
The group, especially people from Sussex County, was interested in the Senate bill S3150 that was sponsored by State Sen. Joseph Pennachhio (District 26). The bill asks for the state government to investigate Planned Parenthood, for allegedly participating in illegal activities, in the reported sale of body parts of unborn and aborted fetuses. It would ban any financial compensation for donation of tissues from fetal cadavers, for the purpose of research. An assembly bill has also been drafted. Ms. Clark felt that in spite of support for the Sussex County Board of Freeholders, the bill is going nowhere for many reasons, especially because there is not fetal tissue donation program in any Planned Parenthood clinic in NJ.
Ms. Clark spoke about the new coalition that has been started in NJ for reproductive justice and pro-choice groups. Planned Parenthood Action fund has taken the lead. The UULMNJ Health/Reproductive Justice Task Force is a member. This group will be very helpful in keeping us informed of issues as they emerge. The coalition keeps us up to date about Planned Parenthood advocacy nationwide and in and is a wonderful networking group.
- Current Abortion Clinic situation, especially the increase in number and intensity of demonstrators. This will be discussed at future calls and meetings.
- National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW): The group has had cases in NJ, the most recent one was decided by the NJ Supreme Court in July 2015. The Court vacated a judgment of abuse and neglect in a case that had been brought against a mother who was using prescribed methadone during her pregnancy. There were 76 organizations and experts who were part of the case led by NAPW. We will contact NAPW and consider asking the UULMNJ Legal Advocacy project to join in amicus briefs in the future.
- NJ Health Care Coalition: There was nobody who could attend their meeting at the end of October. We will continue to see if somebody on the TF can represent us.
Possible focuses for the Task Force
- The group expressed a lot of concern for Planned Parenthood attacks and possible defunding of Planned Parenthood and its impact on New Jersey. We will watch this closely and advocate if there is a NJ impact and action to take.
- Will be an active member in My Health My Life, the new coalition of reproductive justice/pro-choice groups in NJ.
- Study mass incarceration and the New “Jane” Crow. There is interest in exploring the conditions of women in prison and county jails in NJ. Possible coordinate with the UULMNJ Criminal Justice Reform/End the New Jim Crow Task Force. Recognition that the intersectionality is great.
- Encourage congregations to form groups to study reproductive justice and support any initiatives by supplying with resources.
Goals Possible reproductive justice legislative/advocacy actions in NJ
- Support any action to reinstate family planning cuts to the state budget.
- Medicaid Funding – explore the time lapse from time of application to finalization of eligibility and consider advocating for closing the gap. Be aware of other opportunities to advocate for Medicaid expansion.
- be aware of any bills that would infringe on reproductive rights including abortion. While Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) bills have not been enacted in NJ, we will be ready if there is such a move.
Notes provided by Carol Loscalzo, chair
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