If you’ve seen the national news or read a major paper in the last three weeks, you’re aware of Governor Scott Walker’s malicious Budget Repair Bill (Wisconsin May Take Ax to State Workers’ Benefits and Their Unions) which threatens to deny collective bargaining rights to nearly all public workers in Wisconsin.
Concealed in the jargon of the 144-page bill is an equally serious issue—a threat to silence public voice on Medicaid and Medicare coverage issues by deferring all policy decisions regarding Medicare into hands of a legislative committee’s co-chairs and the Governor—without public debate.
In Wisconsin, family planning services—including access to birth control—fall under the Medicare umbrella. I and many of my female friends use birth control and I am willing to boldly make the generalization that relying on men for birth control does not result in a 100% success rate. Like many of my female friends, I also must rely on a subsidy to help alleviate the cost of birth control.
Governor Walker proposes to take the fate of Medicaid and my access to birth control into his hands and the hands of his committee co-chairs without any public input. Three people could be deciding the future of access to family planning for the sixty-five thousand participants who rely on the program now.
Governor Walker is not only proposing to take our voices away, he is proposing to take away the control we have over our bodies too.
Eliminating the subsidy that countless numbers of women receive for birth control will prevent women from using many birth control methods. The Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit which focuses on advancing sexual as well as reproductive health, published a brief on family planning which states that “Women who had an unmet need for effective contraception account for 82% of all unintended pregnancies”. The result of having access to birth control cut off will be more unplanned pregnancies as many women would be unwilling to restructure their sex lives. Whether these pregnancies are carried to term or terminated, the costs are high. The average costs of carrying a child to term ($5,791) are much higher than the average annual cost of supplying birth control (approximately $200). Cutting the family planning services to Wisconsin women and men is fiscally irresponsible and would add to the deficit that Governor Walker is purporting to lower with his budget “repair” bill.
Changing the legislative administrative rule process by implementing undemocratic transactions is a gross overreach of power that could let three out-of-touch old legislators mute my voice and take away the health care that empowers me to advance my education and make responsible choices. That is unacceptable. Attacks on women’s reproductive rights in Washington, D.C.—and across the United States—are increasing in number and intensity. Now Governor Walker proposes to silence the voices of women and their representatives in the “debate”.
I urge women across Wisconsin to make their voices heard now in any and every way possible. Write letters to the editor of your local newspapers. Use social networks—Facebook and Twitter. Call your legislators. Protect your right to speak and protect your right to control your body. Just like I am not willing to rely on men for my birth control, I am not willing to rely on Governor Walker and the chairs of the joint legislative committee to control family planning decisions for women across Wisconsin.
Kirsten Crowhurst, Student at UW-Madison