Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin have singled out Planned Parenthood in their crusade against women’s reproductive health — a popular anti-choice tactic that states like Texas, Oklahoma, and Arizona have also employed over the past year. And now that Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-WI) budget has stripped over a million dollars of funding from the women’s health organization, it will be forced to close four of its rural health clinics within the next several months.
“Closing these centers is a direct result of the budget cuts from last cycle, when the Republicans kicked Planned Parenthood out of the budget,” Nicole Safar, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin’s public policy director, explained to RH Reality Check. And since the four clinics that will be forced to close their doors are located in rural areas, Planned Parenthood officials warn that the low-income women who used to rely on them will now be forced to travel up to an hour to visit a clinic in another county:
“They weren’t reimbursements for patient services directly,” said Nicole Safar, director of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. “None of these centers provided abortion services…In these communities, there is nowhere else for low-income women to get these services. These centers focused on preventing unplanned pregnancies and reducing the need for abortions.”
The centers provided 11,400 health care services a year. Officials said they worry that the closings will mean that about 2,000 people in the affected communities won’t be getting checkups or treatment, putting patients at risk of cancer and other illnesses.
“The women who come in to see me every day don’t care if their legislators are Republicans or Democrats,” said Deb Lidbury, a nurse practitioner at Planned Parenthood. “What they care about is having access to screenings, birth control and having access to someone who can answer their immediate concerns and questions. Many of the patients I see may skip their annual exam or go without getting a lump check.”
Walker’s 2011-2013 budget stripped funding from health organizations that are affiliated with abortion services, which disproportionately impacted the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics. State and federal laws already prohibit federal funds from going toward abortion — so none of the organization’s locations were using that money to fund abortion services in the first place.
Unfortunately, attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics are hardly the only anti-choice policies that Wisconsin women have to worry about. The top Republican lawmakers in the state confirmed last week that mandating an invasive transvaginal ultrasound for women seeking abortion is a “priority” for them. And new restrictions on medication-induced abortions are already forcing women’s health clinics in Wisconsin to stop offering medicine abortion services for the women who want to terminate a pregnancy during the first trimester.