In what is the Republicans latest attempt to eliminate basic healthcare services for women across Wisconsin, including breast and cervical cancer screenings and access to birth control, the Assembly Committee on Health is holding a public hearing today on Assembly Bills 310 and 311. This legislation will defund critical family planning health centers across Wisconsin, take money away from county health departments, and reduce access to needed health care services.
“Over the past few days, the national spotlight has been on Governor Walker since he said he would consider building a wall between the US and Canada. For Wisconsinites, this shouldn’t be surprising. Governor Walker and legislative Republicans have been building barriers between women and needed health care for years. Now they have turned their attention to attacking birth control,” Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) said.
Assembly Bill 310 would exclude most Wisconsin women’s health centers from the federal Title X funding, which goes towards comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services. Under current state and federal law, no public funding may be used for abortion services. This bill conflicts with Title X regulations that require women to receive certain referrals under the program. Over $3 million in federal funds are received annually under this program in Wisconsin.
The second bill, Assembly Bill 311, slashes birth control reimbursement rates for Medicaid family planning services, 90 percent of which is paid for with federal funds, and will impact up to 51 family planning health centers. A recent state fiscal estimate indicates that for county and city health departments alone this bill will result in reducing revenue by up to $788,800. These changes will put many local family planning health centers across Wisconsin out of business, particularly those health centers in rural communities, where no other provider is available.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, the largest family planning provider in the state, alone cares for over 60,000 patients each year and in 2014, provided 3430 cervical cancer screens and 4799 breast exams.
“While our children return to school this week, it is clear that Republicans want to return to the 1950’s when women and families had few choices and options over their reproductive health. Over the last four years, legislative Republicans have placed more abortion restrictions, with no exceptions for rape or incest victims in some cases, on our law books than almost any other state in the nation. Apparently that conservative red meat wasn’t rare enough, since the two male authors have now set their sights on restricting women’s access to birth control and cancer screenings. It is appalling that Republican politicians are willing to sacrifice women’s health and lives to score political points with the most extreme wing of the Republican Party,” said Rep. Taylor.