In the midst of fighting his union-busting crusade, Wisconsin’s embattled Gov. Scott Walker (R) unveiled his budget on Tuesday. Insisting on balancing the budget without raising taxes or fees, Walker proposed a two-year plan in which he expects students, participants in the SeniorCare prescription drug plan, poor families receiving health care or welfare, and local schools to make sacrifices. As one state lawmaker put it, his $900 million cut in state aid to schools is “an absolute annihilation” of public education. But targeting students, teachers, seniors, and poor people is not enough. He is also proposing to repeal Wisconsin’s Contraceptive Equity Law because, apparently for Walker, a budget also has to attack women’s health:
Gov. Scott Walker’s budget would repeal a state law requiring insurance companies cover prescription birth control.
Walker’s budget released Tuesday would undo the law signed in 2009 by his Democratic predecessor Gov. Jim Doyle. Passage of the bill, which took effect last year, came after more than a decade of trying by Democrats.
The mandate had been fought by anti-abortion groups and Catholics but supported by Planned Parenthood and public health groups.
Such a repeal would seriously jeopardize a woman’s reproductive health in Wisconsin. American women who aren’t using contraception like birth control represent “one-third of all women at risk of unintended pregnancy and account for 95% of the three million unintended pregnancies that occur every year.” Such pregnancies, in turn, have been linked to “numerous negative maternal and child health outcomes,” including “increased risk of morbidity for women” and delayed prenatal care for the infant. According to the CDC, prescription contraceptives are currently the leading method by which women avoid this danger.
But Gov. Walker’s anti-birth control agenda doesn’t just stop with banning insurance coverage. Taking a page from Gov. Chris Christie’s (R-NJ) playbook, Walker’s budget also eliminates Title V, “the only state funded family planning health care” that “ensures access to critical health care services for uninsured Wisconsinites including cervical, breast, and prostate cancer screening, well women exams, sexually transmitted disease screening and treatment, and access to contraception.” Zeroing out Title V leaves 50 health centers in Wisconsin at risk of closing — many of which provided contraceptive care to 52,000 Wisconsin women in 2008 alone. But to Walker, the deficit takes precedence. Of course, as a Guttmacher Institute study indicates, every $1 spent on birth control saves taxpayers $4.02 is just an inconvenient detail.
While other states like Iowa have specific legislation to limit birth control options, Walker is using his budget to “launch an all out assault on reproductive health care,” said NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin’s Executive Director Lisa Subeck. In doing so, “Walker completely fails the women and families of Wisconsin.”