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Wisconsin Set To Defund Planned Parenthood, Slash Family Planning

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WASHINGTON -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is expected to sign a budget bill on Tuesday that eliminates state and federal funding from nine of the state's Planned Parenthood health centers, making Wisconsin the fourth state to defund the family planning provider after Indiana, Kansas and North Carolina did so earlier this year.

The new state budget also cuts men out of BadgerCare, the state's Medicaid-funded family planning program, and tightens the eligibility restrictions for women, which could jeopardize the entire program. The U.S. Department of Health would have to agree to such dramatic changes to BadgerCare that state officials worry the program might end altogether, leaving 57,000 uninsured patients without access to health care.

A Planned Parenthood spokesperson said Wisconsin has never seen an administration more fundamentally opposed to family planning and birth control. Walker was the first gubernatorial candidate to seek and win the official endorsement of Pro-Life Wisconsin -- a group that considers birth control a form of abortion and opposes sex education for teenagers.

Numerous state lawmakers have expressed their disdain for Planned Parenthood.

"There's a very ugly side to this organization, and I regret that they're going to take such a tiny cut in this budget," said state Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) during negotiations on the budget.

The new budget eliminates $1 million a year in funding for nine of Wisconsin's 25 Planned Parenthood clinics, which provide low-cost preventative health care to over 12,000 uninsured women in small communities like Oshkosh, Fond du Lac, Eau Claire and Kenosha. None of the Planned Parenthood clinics that receive public funds provide abortions.

The budget could also block Planned Parenthood's ability to provide cancer screenings.

"The way the language [of the bill] is written, we also can't partner with the state lab that reads the tests and was part of our cancer screening process," said Tanya Atkinson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Wisconsin. "So by targeting birth control, they are really putting women's lives at risk."

The cuts to family planning are ostensibly part of a broader effort by Walker and state lawmakers to save money and repair the state's budget, but Planned Parenthood and BadgerCare advocates argue that family planning programs actually save the state money. The Wisconsin Department of Health estimates that BadgerCare Family Planning Program prevented an estimated 11,064 unplanned pregnancies in 2008, saving the state about $139.1 million in expenditures that would have covered subsequent medical care.

"It's not about cutting corners, or 'everybody's gotta go on a diet,' or all the rhetoric they’ve been throwing around," Atkinson told HuffPost. "These are money-saving programs."

Atkinson said Planned Parenthood is now "looking at every option" to keep the nine defunded clinics open.

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