As a New Jersey college student, I have watched Governor Chris Christie’s proposals for budget cuts with increasing alarm.  The most pressing of these cuts, for me, is the complete elimination of funding for family planning.  I am twenty-one years old and a rising senior at Princeton University, and on a personal level, I see the removal of funding for these crucial services to be a threat to my own ability to control my reproductive health and sexual decision-making.  For young women across the state, Gov. Christie’s cuts will pose financial hardship as well as serious health risks.  These are hazards that our state cannot afford.

Without funding for family planning services, many college students will be deprived of routine gynecological care and basic birth control.  These are not luxuries; they allow us to stay healthy, to decide when and if we want to have children, and to be the successful scholars that New Jersey’s colleges and universities produce.  Our ability to access affordable, comprehensive and confidential health services lays the groundwork for our future reproductive health and our ability to plan families after college.

The risks, if these services disappear, are significant.  1 in 4 teenage girls have an STI, and by the time we’re 25, half of us will have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection.  Without insurance or access to state-funded family planning clinics, birth control can be an insurmountable expense, and STI testing becomes equally unaffordable.  These are basic necessities, and without them, our very existence as students is threatened.

As college students and politically aware voters, it hasn’t escaped our notice that these cuts don’t even make financial sense. For every $1 spent on family planning services, the state saves $4 in Medicaid costs. In other words, limited access to contraceptives means poorer sexual health. This would lead to a greater need for treatment that clinics will not be able to satisfy. Budget cuts will therefore actually cost the state far more than they would save. Last year, the unintended pregnancies and abortions prevented by reproductive health centers saved the state more than $150 million in Medicaid costs. Any cuts to family planning shift the burden straight to Medicaid — to the tune of about $28 million. These cuts are not just shortsighted, misogynistic and classist — they’re completely nonsensical. And they will result in devastating consequences for public health.

We trust you to see that cutting family planning funding will be a disaster for the state, and that you care as passionately as we do about providing safe, effective and affordable reproductive health care to every New Jersey resident.  And we’ll be making sure that our legislators realize that we’re here, and willing to speak out against these threats to our health and freedom.  Join us in Trenton on Monday, June 21 at noon, where we will tell our legislators that they won’t gamble with women’s health on our watch.

 

Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux
New Jersey College Students for Women's Health