I suppose that conservatives aren’t going to be happy until they kill off Planned Parenthood. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin just signed a two-year, $66 billion budget stripping the organization’s health clinics of their state and federal funding. His budget, I might add, was passed without a single Democratic vote. So you know how truly popular and nonpartisan it was.
Walker is by no means alone in his obsession with gutting Planned Parenthood. Conservatives in Indiana, North Carolina, and Kansas have also targeted the group. In May Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana signed a law cutting all Medicaid funds to clinics that do abortions. No matter that federal funds can’t be used for abortion. (Really, how many times must this be said? Federal. Funds. Can’t. Be. Used. For. Abortion.) No matter that abortion reflects only a tiny percentage of the services Planned Parenthood provides. Or that the law will overwhelmingly hurt women who are working-class and poor and don’t have the increasing luxury of seeing a private ob-gyn. Planned Parenthood must be stopped!
Fortunately, Daniels was stopped instead. Last week a federal judge ruled the law unconstitutional, and ordered Indiana to resume Planned Parenthood’s funding. And just in time. In a statement, Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana, said, “We’ve been caring for our established Medicaid patients through donations, which were set to run out on June 20.”
As for Wisconsin, the effect of Walker’s budget will be devastating. Planned Parenthood has 27 health centers across the state, many of them in small, rural communities where there aren’t a lot of health-care options. Those centers see some 73,000 patients a year. According to Planned Parenthood, 12,000 women who don’t have health insurance won’t be able to get preventive care now. And the rest? They’re just going to have look elsewhere for their pap smears, cancer screenings, birth control and breast exams. Oh, well!
Which, as it happens, won’t be easy. Walker's budget also cripples Wisconsin’s delightfully named BadgerCare, a family planning program that serves 53,000 women and men at various health-care facilities. Including--surprise!--Planned Parenthood.
Walker, if you’ll recall, is the GOP governor that briefly made headlines with his bold ideas about cutting the deficit until Republicans realized how loony and untenable they were. At this point he might want to rethink his budget. According to his own Department of Health, the BadgerCare family program actually saves Wisconsin $140 million a year.
But this is not about money or the deficit. It’s not even about abortion. It never has been. It’s about who gets to control women’s bodies. If conservatives truly cared about reducing abortion, wouldn’t they fight to increase education and funding for birth control? Apart from that reliable old method abstinence, wouldn’t they try to encourage young men and women to prevent unplanned pregnancies? At the very least, we’d be spared those dreadful teen pregnancy reality shows. Instead, even contraception is becoming fair game with this crowd.
I have a soft spot for Planned Parenthood. Like millions of American women, it was at one of their modest clinics where I had my first gynecological exam. It was the place where I learned about the importance of women’s health, and of taking care of myself. At the time I was a shy, terrified 19- year-old who didn’t know much about my body, much less about the mysteries of birth control. I knew I didn’t want to get pregnant, and needed advice. I will be forever grateful to the skilled doctor who cared for me that afternoon, as I lay on a metal table shivering in my hospital gown, who gave me that knowledge. Who made me feel safe.
I no longer go to Planned Parenthood. I have a wonderful--and very expensive--ob-gyn I’ve been going to since my first lovely pregnancy 21 years ago. My teenage daughter goes to see my doctor now, too. "I love her, love her!" she trilled to me, as we strolled down the hallway after her first visit. But if we didn’t have the costly private health insurance that enables us to see Violet, or weren’t able to afford a doctor, I know exactly where we’d turn.
Credit Image: Kelly Schott on Flickr
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