Planned Parenthood® of Central New Jersey

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What's Happening in Trenton

Contraceptive Equity
Emergency Contraception in the Emergency Room
Pharmacy Refusal
Confidential Health Services for Minors
Right to Choose
Abortion Procedure Bans
Family Planning Funding
Sex Education
What's Happening in Washington

Contraceptive Equity

Planned Parenthood supports legislation to provide equity in insurance coverage for contraception. Assembly Bill 292 provides equity in insurance coverage for contraception by requiring health insurance plans that already cover prescription drugs and devices to include equal coverage. The bill was approved in the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.  On June 17th, the NJ Senate voted to approve the measure and has sent it on to the Assembly for consideration. 

As contraception is a basic health care need, this coverage should apply equally to all employees regardless of their employers’ religious beliefs. At least 20 other states have now passed bills that require insurers to provide coverage for contraceptive prescription drugs.

Every year, women of childbearing age spend 68 percent more out-of-pocket for health care than men, primarily because their health insurance won’t cover prescription contraception. A woman who wants two children will have to use contraception for more than two decades of her life.

There is widespread public support for contraceptive coverage – 71 percent of voters agree that the government should require health insurance policies to cover contraceptives and birth control. When a reference to the coverage for Viagra is added, that support rises to 77 percent of voters who agree with contraceptive coverage.

For a copy of S- 556, click here.

See Federal legislation on Equity in Prescription Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage.

Emergency Contraception in the Emergency Room

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On March 21, 2005, Acting Governor Richard Codey signed S-1668/A-2698, the Compassionate Care for Survivors of Sexual Assault bill. The newly signed law, also called “EC in the ER”, will require healthcare facilities that treat sexual assault survivors to provide emergency contraception (EC) information and, if requested, the contraceptives as part of their protocol.

EC is a concentrated dose of birth control pills that can prevent pregnancy if taken within 120 hours of unprotected sex. Often called the “morning after pill”, emergency contraception does not cause an abortion but instead inhibits or delays ovulation; it is not effective if the woman is pregnant. In 1997, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of emergency contraception as safe and effective. Both the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have endorsed the widespread availability of emergency contraception.

The new state law will require hospitals to provide survivors of sexual assault with information on or access to emergency contraception. Since a woman must take emergency contraception within 120 of unprotected sex, it is crucial that sexual assault victims be informed about the availability of emergency contraception when they are being treated at the hospital.

For a copy of P.L. 2005, c. 50, click here.

Pharmacy Refusal

In New Jersey, state legislation has been introduced which prohibits pharmacists from refusing to dispense medication solely for philosophical, moral or religious reasons (A-3772/S-2178).

Throughout the country, some pharmacists are refusing to dispense valid, safe prescriptions for women not based on the patient’s health or safety, but on their own personal beliefs.  For example, last year in Texas, a rape survivor was denied access to emergency contraception because her pharmacist refused to dispense the prescription and a married mother of two could not get her prescription for birth control filled by her pharmacist because of his religious beliefs. A pharmacist who refuses to fill a prescription poses a significant burden on a woman seeking access to valid healthcare, particularly for emergency contraception where its effectiveness is time sensitive.

Contraception is basic healthcare for women, and a vast majority of women will use birth control at some point in their lives. Prescription refusal is a disturbing trend that can jeopardize a woman's reproductive health. Denying women access to valid, legally prescribed medication is an unacceptable imposition on their rights and an act of outright discrimination.

In a recent Star-Ledger article, a spokeswoman for New Jersey Right to Life claims that there are a number of pro-life pharmacists in New Jersey who are refusing to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception.  Pharmacist’s personal beliefs should not take precedence over the individual health decisions of customers and their physicians. 

For a copy of A-3772, click here.  For a copy of S-2178, click here.

Confidential Health Services for Minors

New Jersey teens have the right to confidential reproductive healthcare services including abortion and there is no parental notification requirement.  However, confidential services for minors is still often misunderstood.

Several years ago, the New Jersey Legislature attempted but failed to restrict minors’ access to confidential health services by requiring parental notification before a minor could receive treatment for a pregnancy related condition. In other states, attempts have been made to require parental notification or consent before minors could receive contraception.

The NJ Parental Notification Law, which passed in 1999, had mandated that a young women’s parent be notified at least 48 hours before she has an abortion. Eleven plaintiffs, including 10 providers and the American Academy

of Pediatrics, NJ Chapter, filed suit contesting the constitutionality of the law under the New Jersey Constitution. Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey was the lead plaintiff in that case. The New Jersey Supreme Court struck down the parental notification law. The court reaffirmed that the right to abortion is a fundamental right under the NJ Constitution and that the law violated the equal protection clause.

Planned Parenthood strongly supports communication between parents and their children. However, requiring parental notification or consent as a prerequisite to receiving information or services would reduce the number of minors seeking reproductive health care services. The Journal of Pediatrics’ study found that only 15 percent of teens would seek care for sexually transmitted disease if parental consent or notice were required. This number jumps to 50 percent seeking care if treatment were confidential. Adolescents are more likely than older women to delay making decisions related to a pregnancy because of fear of parents' reaction or even a denial of the symptoms of pregnancy. The result is almost always a delay that can increase both the cost of the abortion and the physical and emotional health risk to the teenager, since an earlier abortion is a safer one. A delay in receiving pregnancy-related services could result in many health risks including a failure to obtain necessary prenatal care or, if the minor wishes to terminate the pregnancy, the possibility of an illegal abortion.

The requirement for parental notification or consent would have a serious health impact including increasing the number of unintended pregnancies and increasing the number of teenagers with sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

Right To Choose

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court determined in Roe v. Wade that the state could not interfere with a woman’s decision to have an abortion during the first three months of pregnancy. Additionally, the court held that the state could regulate abortion during the second three months if the regulation was narrowly tailored to protect the woman’s health and the state can bar abortion in the last three months except when the procedure is necessary to preserve the life and health of the woman.

The Supreme Court confirmed women’s right to choose abortion in 1973 in Roe v. Wade, and the courts have upheld that finding in subsequent cases.  But access to abortion has been severely eroded.  Many factors contribute to the current crisis in abortion access including state laws that make getting an abortion more complicated than is medically necessary, continued threats of violence and fewer providers.

Planned Parenthood works to ensure that abortion services include medically accurate information on the nature, consequences, and risks of the procedure, and counseling on the alternatives. It is essential that a woman have the information necessary to make an informed and responsible decision concerning the continuation or termination of pregnancy.

At Planned Parenthood, we work to ensure that no one is denied abortion services solely because of age or economic circumstances.

Abortion Procedure Bans

The public debate on “so called” partial birth abortions has focused on a small number of late term abortions. Courts across the country have found that language in these bills are so broad that it covers abortions and procedures commonly done in the second trimester of pregnancy. The Nebraska version of this law was reviewed by the US Supreme Court and found to be unconstitutional. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Stenberg v. Carhart that restrictive abortion bans place an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion and are unconstitutional.

Abortion bans continue to get legislative approval even though the Supreme Court has said unequivocally that any abortion restriction that lacks an exception to protect a woman’s health is flawed and violates a woman’s right to choose.  Anti-choice legislators continue to disregard the importance of protecting the woman’s health and refuse to include that reasonable exception.

In New Jersey, lawmakers passed a bill in 1997 banning "so-called" partial birth or late term abortions but the Federal Appeals Court found that New Jersey's law is unconstitutional. Therefore, this law is not in effect in New Jersey.

 A federal law that bans certain abortion procedures is now being challenged in the courts.

See Federal legislation on Abortion Procedure Bans.

Family Planning Funding

Family planning services provide women, mostly the uninsured working poor, with the ability to plan or prevent pregnancies and to remain economically self-sufficient. Funding family planning helps prevent unintended pregnancies, lower rates of abortion and sexually transmitted diseases, substantially decrease the risks of infant mortality and provide essential screenings for breast and cervical cancer, hypertension and diabetes. Additionally, adequate funding for family planning reduces state costs for pre-natal and delivery, abortion, welfare and social services. Unfortunately, New Jersey ranks 42nd out of 50 states in state family planning funding.

In New Jersey, 17 agencies contract with the State of New Jersey to provide family planning and a wide range of women's health care services to low-income women. Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey provides family planning services at six Health Centers throughout Monmouth and Middlesex Counties.

During the annual State budget process, PPCNJ monitors the proposed budget to ensure that adequate funding for family planning continues. We determine how much family planning money is allocated and how it is spent and then work with coalition partners to advocate for increased funding or to oppose onerous restrictions, when necessary.

For this current Fiscal Year 2006, the budget appropriation was maintained at a funding level consistent with last year’s allocation which still, however, does not meet the ever increasing funding need.

See Federal legislation on Family Planning Funding.

Sex Education

Responsible, balanced and medically accurate sexuality education seeks to assist young people in understanding a positive view of sexuality, provide them with information and skills about taking care of their sexual health, and help them acquire skills to make responsible decisions now and in the future.

Sexuality education should be comprehensive and medically accurate. It should address sexual issues free of stereotype and misinformation without promoting extreme social, political, or religious views. An overwhelming majority (83 percent) of voters who were polled favored requiring medically accurate sex education.

By promoting abstinence-only education that omits complete, medically accurate information, U.S. policy ignores research, public opinion and the experience of other countries about what actually works to prevent teenage pregnancy and STIs.  For more information about a recent federal study on the failures and misinformation of abstinence-only education programs, click here.

The New Jersey Legislature recently passed legislation that requires family life education classes in public schools to ‘stress abstinence’ rather than provide an age-appropriate, medically accurate sexuality curriculum.

Currently, there is legislation pending in New Jersey that would reverse ‘stress abstinence’ and permit the teaching of responsible, age-appropriate, medically accurate sex education that discusses both abstinence and contraception (Assembly Bill 787).

For a copy of A 787, click here.

By promoting abstinence-only education that omits complete, medically accurate information, U.S. policy ignores research, public opinion and the experience of other countries about what actually works to prevent teenage pregnancy and STIs.