Citing Republican Scott Walker and the anti-choice state legislature’s continued budget cuts to family planning and sexual health programs, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin announced that it will be forced to close four of its Wisconsin clinics. The clinics affected are in Beaver Dam, Johnson Creek, Chippewa Falls, and Shawano, and their closure is expected to result in a loss of services to approximately 2,000 patients, according to the organization.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin currently has 27 centers in the state, and this set of closures will cut a their numbers down to just 23. None of the four clinics being closed offer abortions. These four were among nine clinics directly effected by the state budget cuts in 2011, and all were the sole providers of reproductive health care for low-income women in their communities.
“Closing these centers is a direct result of the budget cuts from last cycle, when the Republicans kicked Planned Parenthood out of the budget,” explained Nicole Safar, Public Policy Director for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. “Every dollar went into state care and none of it went into abortion services. Legislators need to explain to the voters why they have cut care in their communities.” The combination of state budget cuts, reductions in Badgercare, the state’s health care insurance program for low-income residents, and now Walker’s recent decision to turn down Medicaid expansion will have serious repercussions for the health of many in the state, says Safar. She pointed to a Guttmacher report that estimated Wisconsin would save nearly $94 million in Medicaid costs by preventing unintended pregnancies as a true sign of fiscally responsible legislation. “Legislators who oppose abortion should be working with Planned Parenthood to prevent pregnancies.”
“The four centers that we are closing have been a part of our communities for up to 35 years,” said Deb Lidbury, Nurse Practitioner at the soon to close Shawano clinic. “It is disheartening to know that these services will be stopped by those with a political agenda.” Lidbury expressed concerns for the patients in these rural communities, many of whom will now need to travel as much as an hour to access services from the next nearest clinic. “[Patients being effected] don’t care about the party affiliates of politicians. They care about accessing health care,” said Lidbury. Without access to Planned Parenthood, which serves as the sole health care provider to many of these women, “They will skip annual exams or go without having a lump examined,” she worried.
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Becca Hubbard, a recent college graduate and Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin patient, agreed. “When the governor takes away access to healthcare, he is taking away resources from people like me, people between jobs and without other places to turn to for care.”
Anti-choice advocates and politicians in the state reacted with glee to the news of the four clinic closures, but said it wasn’t enough. LifeNews reports:
Wisconsin Right to Life praised Walker, with legislative director Susan Armacost saying, “Governor Walker and the state legislature acted courageously to protect Wisconsin taxpayers from having their tax dollars used to destroy human life. While there is more work to be done to protect taxpayers from paying for abortions, this state budget has greatly improved the situation. On behalf of Wisconsin Right to Life members and supporters throughout the state, we extend our heartfelt thanks to Governor Walker and the legislature.”
Sen. Glenn Grothman, a Republican, said he is glad Planned Parenthood is losing some of its taxpayer funding in Wisconsin, but he wants to see the de-funding effort move forward with eliminate all or most of the remaining $18 million Planned Parenthood receives annually.
“There’s a very ugly side to this organization, and I regret that they’re going to take such a tiny cut in this budget,” Grothman said.
For opponents of abortion, contraception and even basic health care itself, they simply won’t be happy until every clinic is gone, and access to birth control and reproductive health care is left only for those who can afford it.
All four clinics will close between April and July of 2013.