Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal to eliminate all state funding for family planning services for low-income residents could also jeopardize federal dollars for pregnancy prevention.
"We just don't know yet how that would work," says Beth Kaplan, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Health Services.
In the last two years, the state has spent $1.9 million annually on federal planning services at centers around the state. This past year, the state also distributed $1.5 million in federal family planning dollars. This federal funding is part of the $10.7 million received by the state through the federal Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, commonly referred to as the Title V program.
The federal planning dollars require a state match, but it is unclear how the state would meet that requirement given the elimination of its own funding for family planning. Moreover, there has been some uncertainty over whether the elimination of state funding for family planning would jeopardize the rest of the state's Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, says Legislative Fiscal Bureau analyst Sam Austin. Approximately $9 million funds services for children with special health care needs, provides perinatal care for women, and works to reduce infant mortality and increase immunizations among children.
But Kaplan says that Wisconsin's state match could be reconfigured so that these federal dollars are not affected. "The elimination of state funding grants doesn't jeopardize the whole grant," she says.
Anti-abortion groups have hailed the governor's move to eliminate state funding for family planning. "Wisconsin Right to Life Applauds Walker Budget Which Cuts Funds to Abortion Providers," read the headline on the group's news release March 3, the day after Walker released his budget.
The headline alludes to Planned Parenthood, which provides family planning services around the state and abortion services at three stand-alone clinics. Walker's move to spike family planning dollars is among efforts throughout the U.S. by Republicans aimed at Planned Parenthood; Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives, for instance, voted on Feb. 18 to ban the use of federal funds for Planned Parenthood clinics nationwide.
Federal law, however, prohibits the use of federal dollars for abortion services, as does Wisconsin law, so none of the funds targeted in Walker's budget are used to fund abortion services.
Barbara Lyons, Executive Director of Wisconsin Right to Life, nevertheless insists that Planned Parenthood uses taxpayer dollars to help "underwrite" its abortion practices.
Amanda Harrington, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, disputes such claims and says its abortion clinics are "funded entirely with private funds."
Sara Finger, executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health, says about 50 centers around the state would be affected by the elimination of family planning dollars. These centers, which treat men and women, provide cervical, breast and prostate screenings, sexually transmitted disease screening and treatment and access to birth control.
Walker's budget proposal, she says, "has the threat of dismantling the family planning infrastructure in the state."
Lon Newman, executive director of Family Planning Health Services, runs eight clinics in Wisconsin. He says he would likely have to close the six clinics located in rural areas, including those in Adams and Juneau Counties, if state funding is eliminated since taxpayer dollars help pay for rent and other expenses.
Without that, he says, "There are not enough patients and patient revenue to keep the clinics running."