By David Paulsen
Gov. Scott Walker signed two bills Thursday that cut by several million dollars a year the amount of public money that goes to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.
"We want to make sure as taxpayers whether it's state funds or federal funds that come through the State of Wisconsin that they're used in the way that's responsible and reasonable," Walker said before signing the bills, which he emphasized would withhold money to "controversial entities like Planned Parenthood."
One bill restricts how much Planned Parenthood can be reimbursed for prescription drugs, stripping it of an estimated $4 million a year, according to Planned Parenthood. A second measure is expected to cut another $3.5 million in government payments to Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions.
Walker signed the bills at Life's Connection, a clinic in Waukesha specializing in abortion alternatives.
The measures come four years after Republicans made other funding cuts to Planned Parenthood, which the group says led to the closure of five rural clinics that provided birth control and health screenings but not abortions.
The prescription drug bill, Senate Bill 238, would limit Planned Parenthood to billing taxpayers through Medicaid for the actual acquisition cost, plus a dispensing fee. Family planning clinics are able to acquire drugs at discounted rates through a Medicaid health program known as 340B.
Democrats have accused Republicans of allowing their ideology to prevent some women from getting birth control, and opponents of Senate Bill 238 argued it will be thrown out in court because it treats Planned Parenthood differently than other clinics. The bill doesn't mention Planned Parenthood by name but singles the group out by offering lower reimbursement rates for clinics that are linked to an abortion provider.
The bill was approved with party-line votes by the Senate in January and by the Assembly last week.
The other bill, Assembly Bill 310, was approved by the Assembly in September and by the Senate in January. It prevents the state from passing on federal money it receives through the Title X grant program to any group that provides abortions or has an affiliate that provides abortions. Title X money goes toward family planning and health screening for the poor and uninsured and is not allowed to be used for abortions.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin receives about $3.5 million in Title X money a year.
Eliminating Planned Parenthood's funding has gained momentum following the release of secretly recorded videos by abortion opponents that purported to show a Planned Parenthood official in California discussing the cost of providing fetal body parts for medical research. Planned Parenthood has sued the makers of the videos, alleging they were involved in a criminal enterprise and had lied about the abortion provider. A grand jury in Texas indicted the anti-abortion activists involved in making the videos.
"The political motivation behind these bills is clear. Opponents of women's health will stop at nothing to prevent Planned Parenthood from providing much needed medical care in the community," said Tanya Atkinson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin.
Patrick Marley and Jason Stein of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.
(c)2016 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel