Yesterday’s news programs were eye opening on a number of levels. First, on Meet The Press, I got to hear both Ed Gillespie and David Brooks discuss Chris Christie’s austerity budget and his fight with public employee unions with approval. Clearly, what’s happening in New Jersey is going to be discussed in 2010 elections across the country.
And on New Jersey Now I got to hear Marie Tasy speak in favor of the Governor’s elimination of $7.5 million in funding for womens’ health services.
Ms. Tasy is the Executive Director of New Jersey Right To Life-PAC, the State’s largest pro-life political action committee. Ms. Tasy, and NJRTL-PAC, were not always supporters of Chris Christie. The PAC did not endorse either Christie or Lonegan in the Republican primary, as both were pro-life. And initially, NJRTL-PAC declined to endorse Republican candidate Christie because he selected a pro-choice running mate, Kim Guadagno.
However, in the late days of the election, as Governor Corzine closed to within a statistical dead heat with Christie, Ms. Tasy finally did endorse the Republican. Apparently, a pro-life Governor with a pro-choice Lieutenant Governor was better than a pro-choice Governor. Hardly a ringing endorsement.
So, with the eyes of the nation on New Jersey, Chris Christie found himself in need of stronger ties to the pro-life community. Hence his elimination of $7.5 million in womens’ health funding.
The money would go to support reproductive health services at 58 facilities throughout the State operated by Planned Parenthood. While 3 of those facilities provide abortions, none of this money would be used for abortions. While the Governor and Ms. Tasy claim that uninsured women can get their health care at other facilities, the fact is that many will be forced to go to hospitals for their care. As the Planned Parenthood facilities conducted 70,000 breast cancer screenings and 65,000 Pap smears last year, the liklihood that hospitals could pick up the slack is small.
But to Tasy, this is a war against Planned Parenthood. She claims that by distributing literature to teens and providing education about birth control and STDs, Planned Parenthood encourages underage sex, thus creating the need for abortions. To Ms. Tasy, Planned Parenthood creates the demand for its clinics by coming between children and their families, and their family values. She sees it as a self-perpetuating vicious cycle. And any money that goes to Planned Parenthood supports that cycle, even if the money itself is not used for abortion services.
So this is how $7.5 million out of a $29.4 billion dollar budget becomes a national issue. A Governor with national ambitions needs to solidify his relationship with the pro-life community, so he cuts money for womens’ health and sends the head of the State’s biggest pro-life PAC out as his proxy.
As of right now, the Senate has reinstated the $7.5 million in funding for womens’ health services with a veto-proof majority; the Assembly has reinstated the funding but by less than a veto-proof majority. The Governor has yet to act on the bill reinstating the funding.
And the country waits to see how far Chris Christie will go to mollify the pro-life right.