Gov. Tony Evers announced last month that his state budget proposal would include a near $28 million investment to improve access to preventative care treatments, promote healthier pregnancies and address racial disparities in child and maternal care as part of his “Healthy Women, Healthy Babies” initiative, according to a press release.
“We can’t have healthy communities without healthy women and babies,” Evers said in the press release. “That is why my budget will connect the dots and increase access and coverage, as well as create innovative programs to ensure quality health care for women, and healthy beginnings for our children.”
In Wisconsin between 2014 and 2016, the infant mortality rate for black infants was 14.2 deaths per 1,000 births, compared to 4.8 deaths for white infants, according to the press release.
As stated in the press release, the proposal will target this issue by creating an Infant Mortality Program at the Department of Health Services to help lower the barrier to healthy pregnancies for struggling families.
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Furthermore, the governor’s proposal will expand the Well Women Program and support Planned Parenthood as a trusted provider of health services through an increase to the Women’s Health Block Grant and changes to the Title V and X eligibility, the press release explained.
Sheldon Wasserman, chair of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said in a statement that the ACOG applauds the governor and is looking forward to working with him to advance the proposal.
“Women need to be able to go somewhere where they can get birth control, where they can be checked for infections, where they can be cancer screened,” Wasserman said. “Wealthy women have a very different type of health care. They don’t need to worry about their local Planned Parenthood, they can go to their private doctors, their parents, their OB/GYN doctor.”
Wasserman said ACOG supports and believes that low-income women have the right to make decisions about their own bodies, their lives and their future.
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The Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin also voiced approval for the governor’s proposal in a press release. President Tanya Atkinson said the organization applauds the governor for championing women’s health and the lifesaving preventive care Planned Parenthood provides.
Wisconsin Planned Parenthood spokesperson Iris Riis expanded on the organization’s support of Evers’ proposal.
“We are so excited to have a governor who is prioritizing women’s health,” Riis said. “Access to preventative care — things like birth control, cancer screening — these are things there should be agreement about.”
When organizations like Planned Parenthood are defunded, they are unable to provide lifesaving care to those who need it, Riis said.
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According to Wisconsin’s Planned Parenthood annual report, 50,752 women and 7,640 men were provided care in 2017. Of the services they provided, 91,875 were for STI testing, 21,480 were patient exams and 15, 617 were pregnancy tests, the report found.
While the proposal has garnered support, it also met some pushback. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, was one figure who expressed opposition to the proposal.
“Republicans are not going to put one more nickel into Planned Parenthood,” Vos said to the Associated Press. “We have done everything we can to try to make sure that we protect human life. I certainly think that giving more money to the state’s largest abortion provider is not something that I can ever see our caucus doing.”
Of the 359,400 services that Planned Parenthood provided in 2017, only 4,128 were abortions, according to the Wisconsin Planned Parenthood annual report.
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The University of Wisconsin is also striving to prioritize women’s health. University Health Services provides comprehensive and high-quality services that address each individual’s needs, according to their website.
UHS provides services geared toward promoting women’s health. These services include HPV vaccination, pap tests and gynecology exams, according their website.
While UW provides these services, American Civil Leadership Union student president Ananda Deacon commented on on the university’s efforts in forefronting the issue.
“In terms of promoting women’s health, I don’t think the university does a great job promoting them,” Deacon said. “As a university, they are just not driving that to be in people’s mind.”
In the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin press release, Atkinson said the health of all people is a priority everyone can agree upon.
Healthier communities and families start with ensuring women, regardless of their race, income or ZIP code, can get the care the need, she said.
“As the state’s oldest and most trusted nonprofit reproductive health care provider, we know these policies will positively impact our patients and are an important step in keeping Wisconsin safe, healthy and strong,” Atkinson said in the release.