"Town Square" is Montclair Local's space for longer-form opinion essays designed to generate discussion on specific topics affecting our town. Topics and submissions should be emailed to letters@montclairlocal.news for approval at least one week in advance. The author of this edition of "Town Square" is  President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan New Jersey.


By Roslyn Rogers Collins
Special to Montclair Local

Our doors are open.

For over 90 years, Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan New Jersey (PPMNJ) has served the communities of Essex, Hudson and Passaic counties, providing affordable high quality reproductive healthcare.

This work is about equal access, human dignity and the right for every individual to make their own decisions. We know that one in five women have used Planned Parenthood services at some point in their lives for professional, nonjudgmental and confidential care.

Like Planned Parenthood affiliates around the country, PPMNJ has faced opposition, funding cuts and threats to our safety and security, yet despite these challenges, we have remained true to our mission and our doors have stayed open.

In 2018 PPMNJ served almost 20,000 women, men and teens who made over 31,000 visits to our health centers located in Newark, Montclair, East Orange and Paterson. Eighty percent of those served were Essex County residents. They received a variety of services including annual exams, contraceptive care, pregnancy testing, HIV screening and STI testing and treatment. We also provide medication abortion.

For many of our patients we are their only health care provider. No one is ever turned away because of their inability to pay.

We implemented telehealth services so that women can download an app on their phones and through a video conference with one of our clinicians, access oral contraceptives without having to visit one of our centers.

Last year at our Montclair health center, 29 North Fullerton Ave., 5,486 patients walked through our doors, patients that represent a cross-section of the community.

Just like at our other centers, many faced challenges in obtaining the health care that they need and deserve. Our caring nurse practitioners, midwives and physician assistants, along with our other professional staff take time to talk with patients, encouraging them to ask questions in an environment that millions have grown to trust. We have a rich tradition of empowering individuals to make voluntary informed decisions about their reproductive lives. Our certified application counselors are on hand to enroll those seeking care, some of whom have just become unemployed, or who are college students with limited resources into the marketplace and expanded Medicaid, giving many of them and their families access to health insurance that some have never had.

In August, Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country, including PPMNJ, were forced out of the Title X program, which provided federal funding for birth control and reproductive health care. The inclusion of an unethical gag rule would have prevented us from providing our patients with the education, counseling or referral information, regarding abortion services, that many need.

For PPMNJ, that means a loss of $1.5 million annually to our budget. Even as we strategize to cope with such a significant impact on our bottom line, our doors are open.

We are resilient and we live on to fight another day. In the midst of these obstacles, we take time to celebrate that we are not in this battle alone. We have staff who come to work every day with a commitment to providing the best care possible. We have volunteers, donors, allies and advocates who stand with us and march with us, helping to keep our doors open.

On Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, PPMNJ is hosting an "Autumn Soiree" at the Wilshire Grand in West Orange, N.J. We are honoring New Jersey's First Lady, Tammy Murphy, with our Women’s Leadership Champion award for her work in promoting women’s health. The inspiring Pulitzer Prize winning author Anna Quindlen will serve as keynote speaker for the evening. Those doors are open too.

We hope that you will join us in solidarity of Planned Parenthood’s motto: "Care—no matter what!"