Friday, 05 October 2012

Oklahoma Moves to End Planned Parenthood Contracts

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The state of Oklahoma is moving to end WIC contracts with Planned Parenthood. It has withdrawn funding of three Planned Parenthood clinics in Tulsa, and the State Department of Health has informed Oklahoma’s Planned Parenthood CEO, Jill June, that it would be terminating its contracts with the Tulsa facilities by the end of this year. 

The Tulsa contracts are federally funded by the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. This year, Planned Parenthood clinics received over $400,000 from the WIC program.

CNS News writes, “The head of the health department’s WIC Services division, [Terry Bryce], said the decision was based in part on the uncertainty of future federal funds and that Planned Parenthood’s cost per participant exceeded those of other Tulsa-area clinics.”

Critics of the move indicate it is politically motivated. CNS explains the controversy:

Planned Parenthood is a major provider of abortion and contraception nationwide, but June said none of the facilities in Tulsa offer abortion services. The nonprofit agency has been at the middle of a hot-button national debate over abortion and contraceptives, and has come under fire in a number of conservative states that have sought to eliminate its funding.               

But Bryce indicates that there is no political motive behind the decision. Instead, he asserts it was a “business decision” based on “performance factors.”

"This is a renewal period, and the agency has taken the option not to renew based on the needs of the Health Department, the contractor's performance and funding availability," according to a statement the department released.

"The decision was a collective decision within the agency based on the agency's need, the contractor's performance and funding availability," he added.

But June contends that the best interest of the women and children who receive services at the Tulsa clinics was not taken into consideration.

"I thought the program was about the needs of women and children," she said. "We're going to stand and fight to continue providing these services."

"It's hard enough right now for young mothers and children to deal with economic hardships," June said. "To have this kind of heartless disruption of services for reasons that don't add up — I do fear that this is politically motivated. Women should not be the target of political gamesmanship."

According to Bryce, however, the remaining 14 clinics in Tulsa County that provide WIC services are sufficient enough to accommodate the needs of the Tulsa clients.

"We have existing WIC clinics in close proximity to all three of these locations," Bryce said.

But June remains unconvinced.

"I think we deserve some answers, but, more importantly, the women who come to Planned Parenthood, they shouldn't be caught up in what I fear is a political attack," June said.

Similar battles between Planned Parenthood and the states are unfolding across the nation.

Indiana was the first state to pass a law intended to deny federal funding to Planned Parenthood for general health services.

Texas also passed a law excluding Planned Parenthood clinics from the Texas Women’s Health Program under a state law mandating that the state’s Medicaid agency cannot contract with “affiliates that perform or promote elective abortions.”

Likewise, the state of Arizona banned the use of state funds for Planned Parenthood in May of this year.

“The bill is based on model legislation developed by the Susan B. Anthony List and the Alliance Defense Fund, and prioritizes family planning funds away from abortion-centered businesses like Planned Parenthood to entities that provide women with comprehensive health care,” reported LifeNews.com. “The measure prohibits the state or any local government from using public money to contract with an organization that includes abortions.”

But according to Planned Parenthood supporters, the states’ efforts have more insidious motivations.

"They (Planned Parenthood) are absolutely under attack, and the reason for it, to the extent there is a reason at all, is this supposed connection to abortion services, but it's just not true," said Julie Rikelman, the litigation director at the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights. "They're trying to make it seem like it's about abortion, but it's not. It's 100 percent anti-woman, and it's terrible policy."

But Rikelman’s assertions do not hold up when compared to evidence that has been revealed in investigations into Planned Parenthood’s finances and services. In March, The New American’s Dave Bohon wrote:

The abortion giant is presently the subject of a congressional probe by U.S. Representative Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), prompted in part through an investigation by the pro-life group Americans United for Life (AUL). Following a study of more than 20 years of Planned Parenthood records and outside evidence, the AUL released a 181-page report detailing what it charges are large-scale financial irregularities and circumvention of state laws committed by the abortion giant. During one year alone (2008-09), Planned Parenthood took in more than $363 million through government contracts and grants, while its affiliates were responsible for performing more than 332,000 abortions. AUL said that its report shows evidence of nearly $100 million in fraud by Planned Parenthood.

Additionally, in 2011, Planned Parenthood had been exposed by the pro-life group Live Action for supporting child sex trafficking.

In that same year, Live Action also uncovered evidence that refuted claims by the abortion giant that it provides vital health services such as breast exams and mammograms to women.

Live Action released new recordings on YouTube which revealed that 30 Planned Parenthood clinics in 27 cities do not provide mammograms.

According to Live Action’s website:

Every Planned Parenthood, without exception, tells [the Live Action caller] she will have to go elsewhere for a mammogram, and many clinics admit that no Planned Parenthood clinics provide this breast cancer screening procedure. "We don’t provide those services whatsoever," admits a staffer at Planned Parenthood of Arizona. Planned Parenthood’s Comprehensive Health Center clinic in Overland Park, KS explains to the caller, "We actually don’t have a, um, mammogram machine, at our clinics."

According to Tulsa World, Oklahoma Planned Parenthood affiliates do provide services like cancer screenings and other health services like testing for sexually transmitted diseases. They do not perform abortions but provide referrals for women seeking abortions.

June declares that she plans to fight the contract’s termination.  

"We're going to do whatever we can to preserve our ability to continue to serve these women and children, because we know that's what they want and we know that we are a very good provider," she said.

Photo: The Oklahoma state capitol building in Oklahoma City.

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