POLITICS
12/20/2011 06:12 pm ET

Scott Walker Cuts Cancer Screenings For Uninsured Women, Offers No Alternatives

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) recently decided not to renew a state contract with Planned Parenthood to provide cancer and multiple sclerosis screenings to low-income women. The decision leaves four counties without such services, and the governor has no plan to notify patients or offer them alternatives.

The Wisconsin Well Woman Program contracts with Planned Parenthood and other health organizations to provide cervical cancer, breast cancer and multiple sclerosis screenings to uninsured women between the ages of 45 and 64. For the first time in 16 years, Walker announced that the program would no longer be working with Planned Parenthood because the family planning provider is too "controversial."

"There are many clinics that are not as controversial as Planned Parenthood, and our goal was to make sure low-income women had access to those sorts of screenings from other providers around the state that don't carry the controversy you get with Planned Parenthood," he told reporters last week.

Walker signed a bill defunding Planned Parenthood in June because he and the conservative lawmakers in the state object to the fact that some of its 27 Wisconsin clinics provide abortions. But Planned Parenthood is the only provider of breast and cervical cancer screenings in four Wisconsin counties -- Outagamie, Winnebago, Fond du Lac and Sheboygan -- so the low-income women there will have nowhere to go for those services as of January 1.

With less than two weeks until Planned Parenthood's contract expires, Walker has yet to put forward a plan to notify women about the discontinuation of these crucial health services or to offer them a back-up plan.

"Our counties are scrambling, because there's not a huge line of health providers looking to serve uninsured women and manage these cases," State Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh), who represents one of those counties, told HuffPost. "Can you imagine what it would be like if you have an abnormal pap smear, and you call the old number and the person's not there anymore? The people I represent, we're risking their public health and well being to fulfill some sort of ideological commitment to attack Planned Parenthood."

"With Christmas just five days away and eight business days remaining before the end of our contract, the state has put our ability to provide our Well Woman patients with a seamless transition to alternative care at great risk," said Teri Huyck, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, in a statement on Tuesday. "If the state was prioritizing women's health, they would have identified a designated provider, staff, and patient contact information before they decided to end our contract."

Walker's office did not respond to a request for comment.

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