06-02-2011 by Linda S. Carbonell
Under Wisconsin’s BadgerCare, the state’s Medicaid family planning program, young men with little income could get tested for sexually-transmitted, sometimes fatal diseases. Testing for HIV and hepatitis C costs around $300, something an uninsured college student with a part time job simply cannot afford.
Now, Scott Walker has decided that these young men can fend for themselves. Almost 7,000 low-income Wisconsin men use BadgerCare, but Walker’s latest budget bill would cut off service to them. It would also cut off Wisconsin’s participation in federal funding for family planning under Medicaid, impacting young women as well. The bill, currently in the Joint Finance Committee in the Republican-dominated state legislature, would also include provisions that increase age restrictions, require parental consent for anyone under 18, reduce the eligibility down to 200% of the federal poverty level and cut more than $1 million from Planned Parenthood, all conservatives favorite victim when it comes to family planning services.
Pro-choice advocates believe that Walker and the Republicans are doing this to get rid of all family planning funding in the state. The executive director of Planned Parenthood, Tanya Atkinson, said, “Taking men out of the program not only serves to remove critical health care for men, but it puts us out of compliance with our agreement with the federal government and puts the entire BadgerCare program at risk. It’s a politically palatable way of systematically dismantling Wisconsin’s family planning program.”
Pro-Life Wisconsin legislative director Matt Sande defends the legislation with this reasoning: “The assumption is that, if you get women on birth control, that would reduce BadgerCare-funded births and save money. But how much are men contributing to those purported cost savings? Less than 7,000 men use the program, compared to 50,000 total patients. You’re looking at a small percentage of the overall population, so it just seemed to a Republican legislator to be a gratuitous add-on that is not saving the state anything.” But Sande’s further statements show what this is really about. “Medicaid is a state program providing free state-funded birth control and condoms to 15-, 16- and 17-year olds, and that’s a violation of parental rights. We oppose the BadgerCare program for that reason, and also because of the fact that government-funded birth control increases pregnancies and promotes promiscuity – it has the opposite of its intended effect.” Yep – sex education promotes sex. To date there has not been one single proof of this ridiculous proposition offered by anti-abortion, anti-birth control, anti-sex fanatics. The proof, however, is that the statistics for teen pregnancies fell dramatically during the Clinton administration when sex education and birth control were made more available. It is also in the fact that the year with the highest rate of teen pregnancies was 1958, before the pill and before wide-spread sex education.
BadgerCare serves about 57,600 low income Wisconsinites, according to Planned Parenthood, and there were a state health department-estimated 11,000 unplanned pregnancies in 2008. Without access to family planning services, it is argued that there would be an increase in unwanted pregnancies, STDs, undetected cervical, breast and testicular cancers.
Whatever savings Walker thinks this bill will give Wisconsin, the fact is that it will cost the state all its federal funding for family planning, and hit the state with the costs of dealing with the consequences of the loss of preventive and early detection services – potentially millions in health care dollars and hundreds of Wisconsin lives. Walker, however, would rather kill people than give up on the billions of dollars of tax cuts he wants for corporations and the top 2% of Wisconsinites. And pro-lifers would rather see young women getting illegal abortions in kitchens, risking permanent damage and death, than hand out condoms to prevent the pregnancies in the first place.
July 12th can’t come soon enough for Wisconsin.