Who needs cancer screening, anyway?
Do I admit that I've turned to drink as a result of a vote by the Joint Finance Committee to defund Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin? Because I did pour myself a gin rickey last night after I read the news. It was either that or chuck my laptop across the room but I need that for work, and I don't think the fella would have taken kindly to the racket/damage.
And hey, if certain of our elected representatives feel so compelled to systematically strip away any and all health services for their constituents, it's probably best to start self-medicating, right? Gin is alleged to have medicinal properties, after all (although I'm not particularly compelled to test its mettle against the Black Plague).
The Joint Finance Committee voted 12-4 to keep state family planning grants funded with state and federal money from going to groups like Planned Parenthood that separately provide abortions for women or make referrals for abortions. State law already prohibits such funds from being used to pay for abortions.
Unfortunately I'm not sure how laypersons are expected to self-administer the cervical cancer exams that would also be cut if this bill passes the Legislature. Or the STD screenings. Or pap smears.
Poorly, would be my guess.
Seriously, though, we're talking about essential, life-saving services that the Republican-controlled JFC have apparently deemed unnecessary in light of their hardline stance against anything/anyone even remotely associated with abortion.
Under the proposal Gov. Walker would cut $3.8 million in state funding from family planning services. Planned Parenthood would lose out on $1 million a year in funding from the state, and the move could also threaten some $11 million in federal matching funds for family planning services in general.
In addition, the proposal calls for cutting $266,400 from a cervical cancer screening program that helps low income/uninsured women.
The medical director of the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene says women will likely die of cervical cancer if Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal eliminating $266,400 for cervical cancer screening prevails.
"I see at least 1 - 2 high-grade lesions every day during cytologic evaluations," Dr. Daniel Kurtycz says in prepared remarks to…the Joint Finance Committee.... "Without follow-up, there is no doubt that some of these lesions will become invasive. Because cervical cancer takes at least two years to run its course, sometime after 2015, we will have women dying of cervical cancer as a predictable consequence of the funding reduction for testing in this budget."
Basically, in their zeal to attack Planned Parenthood (a battle plan stolen from the national GOP) and appeal to hard-line anti-abortionists, Republicans seem to be more than willing to sacrifice the health and well-being of women across the state.
But not just women, oh no! Another provision calls for cutting the BadgerCare program that provides uninsured single men with family planning coverage -- which would actually mean cutting the program for both menand women (all 60,000 of 'em), because apparently (PDF) you can't have one without the other.
The question I keep coming back to is why? There are already laws prohibiting state (and federal) money from going toward funding abortions. Gunning for Planned Parenthood as a whole -- whose abortion services constitute just 3% of their total work -- seems an awful lot like throwing out the baby with the bathwater to me.
If you're anti-abortion you can take comfort in knowing that your tax dollars already aren't going to fund them. But you should also take comfort in knowing that one of the main purposes of organizations like Planned Parenthood is to decrease the number of abortions sought out in the first place -- by providing more people with accurate sexual health information and resources, including contraception, and helping women make more informed decisions and choices about their bodies.
Just as important, they also play a crucial role in helping people of lesser means prevent and treat various health problems right away, saving not just those individuals stress and money, but the community at large, too. Nipping problems in the bud means less dough and time spent in the long-run.
I know women whose lives were literally saved by these screening programs. Dr. Kurtycz is not wrong when he says that people's lives will be in mortal danger should Walker's proposal pass into law as-is.
I'd like to see cancer patients, survivors and their friends turn out to testify against this bill en masse, frankly --show our representatives exactly what the real, human cost of such a measure would be.
I can only hope their hearts and minds still have more influence than their pocketbooks and ambitions.
But wait, there's more!
The proposal also asks for federal approval to require parental notification for family planning services provided to women under the age of 18.
The idea isn't inherently bad -- but it's very, very complicated. What about situations where a girl is dealing with abuse by a parent or relative? A parent's good friend? Should it be required that the abusers are told about the help she's seeking? What responsibility do we have to make sure young women can seek out and receive sometimes life-saving medical advice and treatment without fear of recriminations from abusive caretakers? Confidentiality is key.
In the meantime and speaking of prevention, the JFC also voted to cut anti-tobacco grants by $850,000 a year, or 22%. This comes after the grants were already cut by 50% in the last budget. This essentially authorizes the state to raid the fund, which was supposedly set up to finance smoking cessation programs and initiatives to stop kids from taking up with tobacco in the first place.
The money for this comes from taxes on tobacco products -- taxes that bring in nearly $700 million a year -- but with all of the redirection and raiding going on, only a paltry $6.85 million actually ends up going toward those programs. For perspective, the CDC recommends a funding level of $64.3 million.
Instead of closing tax loopholes and reforming rates to be more fair, and instead of backing programs that save money in the long run via prevention and education, the Walker Administration seems to be doing everything in its power to place the lion's share of the social burden on those who can least afford it.
We all pay in the end.
To sum up
Rep. Tamara Grigsby, D-Milwaukee: "It's interesting that we care about kids until they come out of the womb, then it's 'To hell with them.'"
Oh my, what's this? Another terrible bill being fast-tracked through the GOP-controlled Legislature? Say it ain't so!
One way to tell a piece of proposed legislation is suspect is when it's introduced at the last minute, under cover of darkness, and without notice to any of the people who will be affected by it. That is exactly what happened with the legislation supported by the Coalition for Credit Union Charter Options (CCUCO), an out-of-state group dedicated to eliminating the competition that credit unions -- member-owned, not-for-profit financial cooperatives -- provide to for-profit banks.
"The group's claim that it's somehow better for Wisconsin credit unions to have faster, easier path to becoming a bank is irresponsible and misleading," said Brett Thompson, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Credit Union League, which represents Wisconsin's 220 credit unions. "This effort to eliminate credit unions under the guise of greater operational flexibility is being driven by the banking industry, which has been trying for decades to legislate, regulate and litigate credit unions out of business."
It. Just. Doesn't. Stop.