As the Legislature gets underway for the fall session, it is clear that Republican policy makers have set their sights on both shutting off vital biomedical research under the guise of limiting abortions, but also making it more difficult for Wisconsin women to access birth control, and cervical and breast cancer screenings.

Assembly Bill 310 seeks to take federal funding away from the current women’s health providers that currently serves 50,000 Wisconsinites. These federal funds cannot be used for abortions, but to provide life-saving health care to women, and access to needed birth control most women rely on. The remaining health centers that could receive these funds often do not have the infrastructure or staff to actually provide these services.

Assembly Bill 311 will slash Medicaid reimbursement rates for birth control provided by the 51 women’s health centers across the state, including county health departments, treating these public health providers differently than any other medical provider. These small, non-profit family planning providers, mainly in rural communities, do not provide abortion services, but birth control, cervical and breast cancer screenings and testing and treatment for STDs. The fiscal impact of this bill on city and county health departments is a devastating cut of $788,000 annually.

Five women’s health care centers have already had to shut down because of the Republicans taking away family planning funds from Planned Parenthood. Contrary to their promise of other health care providers stepping in to fill this void, no other provider has.

You would think that politicians opposing abortion would do everything in their power to make sure women in need had access to birth control. But this effort is really about a quieter campaign to limit women’s access to birth control, and ultimately control the most personal, private health decisions that women and families have to make. The result is that Wisconsin women lose once again.

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