Co-authored with Veronika Johannsen
A local Planned Parenthood facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma is set to close its doors beginning February 1, 2013 after losing funding for the Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) at the beginning of this year. This marks a new front in the defunding battle as Planned Parenthood continues to be on the defensive regarding many of the various services it bills to the government.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health chose not to renew its contract with the organization in September 2012, citing a low-case-load and higher cost of patient participation. This decision is justifiable, especially considering the several cases of alleged Medicaid fraud, including a suit filed against Planned Parenthood of the Heartland in Iowa, which is Oklahoma’s affiliate. "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.
WIC is a Federal grant program of the Food and Nutrition Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture which annually receives specified funding amounts from Congress. The program provides food-vouchers for supplemental nutrition assistance to income-eligible women who are pregnant (including six weeks after pregnancy), breastfeeding (up to child’s 1st birthday), and non-breastfeeding postpartum women (up to six months after pregnancy) as well as infants up to their 1st birthday and children under the age of 5. Few Planned Parenthood centers are currently known to participate in the program.
In response to the decision by the Oklahoma Department of Health, the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Jill June wrote in an official statement: “Without any justification, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland (PPHeartland) received notification that the Oklahoma State Department of Health is eliminating funding for the Women Infant and Children (WIC) program from three Planned Parenthood health centers in Tulsa.” June decried the decision as being politically motivated. “Politics should never interfere with a woman’s access to health services – or food for her children.”
Further investigation of this fantasized “war on women’s healthcare” shows June’s claim that Oklahoma’s decision was purely political proves to be untrue. June exaggerates the accessibility of Planned Parenthood in the Oklahoma community by insinuating that women and their children across the state will be denied basic healthcare and supplemental nutrition. Consider that of the eleven Planned Parenthood clinics located throughout the state, only three of them provided WIC services. These three clinics are all centralized in Tulsa County – not in various counties throughout the state, thus limiting accessibility to those who live in other counties. Terry Bryce, the state’s WIC services director responded, “Their performance does not tie into politics for me.”
Of the 199,171 individuals who obtained WIC benefits in the county, two-thirds of them went to Tulsa County Health Departments which has ten different locations to serve the public. Additionally, women in need have the option of obtaining WIC services from four other independent clinics located throughout the county. Less than one-fifth of current WIC clients receive services at Planned Parenthood and most likely have easy access one of the other 14 locations in the area:
Tulsa is the only place in the state where Planned Parenthood currently provides WIC services. While the statement by Planned Parenthood encourages residents to believe Planned Parenthood is a major asset to the community by providing WIC services to women and children, in reality they only account for a mere 2.94% of the total state of Oklahoma – and were strictly limited to one county. Bryce also said that the decision would offset another round of cuts by saving the state $154,000.
Planned Parenthood is often known for attempting to convince the public that without them, women would be without access to basic health care and necessities for themselves and their families. After taking a closer look however, it is evident that this Planned Parenthood “service” to the state of Oklahoma is miniscule at best, and the loss of their status as a WIC provider is unlikely to negatively impact those dependent upon the Federal program. These Planned Parenthood’s WIC services are more expensive for the state and the county has a broad infrastructure to easily handle the clients that Planned Parenthood currently services. There is little reason to continue giving Planned Parenthood the people’s money simply because they exist.
Activists in other states who discover Planned Parenthood providing WIC services should investigate to see if there are similar conditions to that of Oklahoma. There is no reason for taxpayers to be subsidizing the abortion giant, especially in cases where there are a significant number of entities providing services to women and when Planned Parenthood’s redundant provision of services is at a higher cost.
Daniel McConchie is Vice President of Government Affairs for Americans United for Life. Veronika Johannsen is government affairs intern.