Walker Walks All Over Rights of Wisconsin Women

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Walker Walks All Over Rights of Wisconsin Women

Jodi Jacobson

Beyond union busting, Walker now moves to eliminate access to contraception for low-income women and a return to allowing insurance companies to deny coverage for contraceptive supplies.

We already know that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s “reason” for attempting to take away collective bargaining rights of public employees–otherwise known as citizens and taxpayers of the state of Wisconsin employed by the state and municipalities where they pay those taxes–has nothing to do with budgets, deficits, or spending. Those issues are addressed by the considerable concessions on pensions, pay, and health care already made by unions with support from the publicly-employed citizens they represent.  Instead, the effort to strip collective bargaining rights is deeply rooted in a radical ideological philosophy in which “markets” and corporations call all the shots and workers have little or no protection.

The same is true of Walker’s crusade against reproductive and sexual health programs.  Some weeks back, as Lindsay Beyerstein reported in February for Rewire, Walker gave authority to the Wisconsin state department of health to eliminate the Medicaid program supporting contraceptive supplies for low-income women and men.

Now he has completely eliminated funding for Title V, the only state-funded family planning health care program, which, according to Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin “provides critical health care services to uninsured women and men including cervical cancer screens, prostate cancer screenings, breast and well women exams, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and access to birth control.”

Walker does not trust women and opposes allowing women to exercise their rights to terminate a pregnancy, including in instances of rape and incest. But he is also against birth control and supports allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill emergency contraception prescriptions on “moral grounds.”

Roe is gone. The chaos is just beginning.

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Moreover, the Governor has moved to repeal Wisconsin’s Contraceptive Equity law, originally included in the 2009 budget signed by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle and put into effect on Jan. 1, 2010.

For Rep. Terese Berceau in particular, writes Judith Davidoff of the Capital Times, it was a long time in coming.

The Democrat from Madison first introduced such a bill in 1999, saying that “access to affordable and quality health care for women should no longer be a luxury.” And she has long argued that allowing insurance companies to consider contraception “optional care” places “excessive financial burdens upon women of reproductive age.”

Repealing the law would allow insurance companies to return to discriminating against women by denying coverage of prescription birth control methods, even when other prescriptions–such as, say, Viagra–are covered.  That this is driven by ideology and not by budget, health, or other economic or social equity considerations is clear. Davidoff reports that:

“Walker’s budget summary says the requirement is an “unacceptable government mandate on employers with moral objections to these services,” and that it “increases the cost of health insurance for all payers.”

“We have obviously seen over the last several weeks that Governor Walker has no respect for the basic rights of Wisconsinites,” said Tanya Atkinson, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin.

“Now, he continues his assault on women and families by denying them life-saving health care and taking away their rights to be treated fairly in insurance coverage.”

According to the Capital Times, Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, D-Madison, called the governor’s budget proposal “yet another example of Walker’s war on the middle class and his short-sightedness and irresponsibility. We know that access to basic health care, including contraception, saves money for families and taxpayers.”

Eliminating the state’s only family planning program puts over 50 health centers located throughout Wisconsin at risk of closing and denies women in both rural and urban areas basic health care. In much of the state, these family planning health centers are especially important because, in many instances, they are the only provider in the area. For tens of thousands of women, there is simply no where else to go for annual exams, pap smears and breast exams. The budget also kicks uninsured men off of the BadgerCare family planning program which provides birth control, cancer screenings, HIV and other STD testing and treatment.

“Governor Walker’s budget takes away health care for tens of thousands of hard working Wisconsinites, and gives up significant savings created by these programs that economically benefit our state,” continued Atkinson. “In 2008 alone, WI Department of Health Services said family planning programs saved $140 million and prevented 11,000 unintended pregnancies. Governor Walker is more concerned with furthering his anti-birth control agenda than the health of Wisconsinites and our economy.”

“Like the rights of workers, Governor Walker walks all over the rights of women in this budget, which not only is morally reprehensible, but fiscally irresponsible,” states Atkinson. “These are not Wisconsin values and we certainly deserve better.”