Let’s talk about sex.
About two weeks ago, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin announced it would be closing four of its health centers in the state. This amounts to a little more than 10 percent of Planned Parenthood infrastructure here in Wisconsin. Planned Parenthood cited state budget cuts as the primary reason for the closure of these clinics, reporting that the $1.1 million reduction in their funding would make it impossible for them to keep up with the cost of maintaining the facilities.
These decisions won’t affect many people up at the Capitol, but they’ll matter tremendously for disadvantaged women in Beaver Dam, Johnson Creek, Chippewa Falls and Shawano, the four towns that’ll see the departure of their only family planning services.
Planned Parenthood has gotten a pretty bad rap for being an “abortion industry.” That allegation is about three percent true — only three percent of the services offered by Planned Parenthood involve abortion. Although critics would have the public believe these centers are where women go to rid themselves of unwanted fetuses, Planned Parenthoods are, as their name suggests, clinics where women go to seek help planning a pregnancy. They also provide other services like cancer screenings and STI testing.
As Nicole Safar, director of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, puts it, “None of these centers provided abortion services…in these communities, there is nowhere else for low-income women to get these services. These centers focused on preventing unplanned pregnancies and reducing the need for abortions.”
I’ve never understood why there’s a disagreement about this issue. Regardless of politics in the abortion debate, everyone should agree that reducing the need for abortions is an excellent goal. All the evidence points in the same direction: more education, more access to family planning and more open dialogue about the need for women to have healthy options leads to better fiscal and societal outcomes.
This is not simply a Wisconsin issue. Last week, The New York Times reported that Texas lawmakers were seeking to reinstitute a large chunk of the $73 million cut for family planning services in the fiscal year of 2011. As the Times reported, “The latest Health and Human Services Commission projections being circulated among Texas lawmakers indicate that during the 2014-15 biennium, poor women will deliver an estimated 23,760 more babies than they would have, as a result of their reduced access to state-subsidized birth control. The additional cost to taxpayers is expected to be as much as $273 million — $103 million to $108 million to the state’s general revenue budget alone — and the bulk of it is the cost of caring for those infants under Medicaid.”
I don’t think I’ve ever said this before, but it’s probably time to follow Texas’s lead. Cue the snowball fight in hell.
Our government invests in these sorts of family planning services because they’re cost-efficient ways to dramatically improve personal and societal welfare. They stand out in America because one of the unfortunate hallmarks of our health care system is its scorn for preventative care – services meant to prevent people from getting sick (or in this case, pregnant) in the first place.
Although almost any health care expert will tell you that preventative care is most efficient (it’s cheap, non-intrusive and saves both patients and providers time and money), the politicians of this state are undertaking a bizarre effort to make sure Wisconsin spends more taxpayer money in the long run.
Services like Planned Parenthood decrease the amount of entitlement spending, reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and prevent students from dropping out of high school. Can someone please remind me why the government is trying so hard to eliminate them?
Nathaniel Olson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior majoring in political science, history and psychology.