In a new plan titled “Healthy Women, Healthy Babies,” Gov. Tony Evers proposed a budget of $28 million dedicated to lowering infant mortality, expanding women’s healthcare and, most importantly, restoring funding for Planned Parenthood, which was slashed under former Gov. Scott Walker.
The first part of Evers’ plan includes creating an Infant Mortality Prevention Program, a priority for Evers as Wisconsin’s black infants are two to three more times as likely to die within one year of life than white infants. The plan will also increase funding for the state’s Minority Health Grant — which helps disadvantaged communities in reducing racial health disparity — and increase funds for Family Foundations Home Visiting Program, a program that helps pregnant women more at risk due to poverty, domestic violence and substance abuse.
Evers is clearly dedicated to reducing racial disparity, a problem that still plagues much of Wisconsin. However, it’s clear that Evers is dedicated to helping women. Another large part of the plan is extending postpartum health coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Program from 60 days to a full year after birth. There is also a request for over $600,000 to go toward doula training and services, as doulas support women before, during and after giving birth.
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Evers’ final proposal includes increased funding for the state’s Women’s Health Block Grant by nearly $400,000. This program, which is funded by both the state and Federal Title V funds, gives money to public and private organizations which provide pregnancy tests, counseling, cancer screenings, and sexually transmitted infection prevention, testing and treatment.
Under Walker, Planned Parenthood was ineligible for Title V and Women’s Health Block Grant funds. Walker’s 2011-13 budget banned Title V and Women’s Health Block Grant funds from going toward any organization which offers abortion services or is associated with another organization that provides abortions. This resulted in a $1 million loss for Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin and forced five Planned Parenthood clinics that did not even offer abortions to close their doors.
Furthermore, several of Walker’s bills in 2016 forced the loss of approximately $7.5 million in federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Walker placed strict limits on how much the organization could be reimbursed for prescription drugs acquired through Medicaid, and prevented the organization from being sub-granted federal Title X funds from the state.
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Planned Parenthood, though well-known for its association with abortions, also offers essential reproductive health care, such as STI testing, birth control and emergency contraception. These types of services are vital to maintaining everyday health and many can actually help in preventing abortions.
Evers’ budget proposal, which would make Planned Parenthood eligible for both Title V and sub-granted Title X funds again, will likely receive criticism from abortion opposers. Heather Weininger, executive director of the Wisconsin Right for Life, said “every unborn child in Wisconsin is in extreme danger” when Evers first took office. But increasing funding for programs which provide everyday health services is not endangering the lives of unborn children.
Only 3 percent of the medical services Planned Parenthood provides are abortions. In fact, publicly funded family planning allowed women to avoid 2 million unintended pregnancies in 2014. Forcing the shut-down of several clinics because they are associated with abortion services — even if that specific clinic does not actually provide abortions — does not help anyone because of the high infant mortality rates for black infants in Wisconsin and a large number of women all over the country who still need help with maintaining safe pregnancies.
Despite how one may feel about abortions, severely restricting funding for Planned Parenthood because of their association with them is unreasonable and affects more women than just those seeking abortions. Evers clearly understands that healthy women need services provided by Planned Parenthood, like STI treatment, cancer screenings and contraceptives, and more of people — regardless of political party — should stop blaming the organization for just one aspect of its overall purpose in maintaining women’s health.
Courtney Degen ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science and journalism.