This article was updated to include new information about the County Commission’s meeting called to “fully vet” their original decision. That update is found at the end of the story.
We’ve heard about a lot of dangerous sexist and economically discriminatory policies being pursued at the state level to deny low-income women access to necessary health care, including low-cost contraception. Texas stands as the most egregious perpetrator of such injustice against women.
Last session, the state of Kansas passed a budget that excluded Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. This budget measure was granted a judicial injunction after a court challenge was brought in opposition. So, for now the women of Kansas still have access to their beloved health care provider. Ever the consistent and festering thorn in women’s sides, Governor Brownback has seen fit to include this unconstitutional measure in this year’s budget as well.
The stated intent of eviscerating Title X has been to divert funding to local health departments. Proponents stated that the contraceptive needs of low-income women can be satisfactorily met through these providers. For the women of Miami County, Kansas, that theory is already proving false. They’ve already experienced the cuts and been denied access to affordable contraception, as the result of a 3 to 2 vote by Miami County Commissioners to decline Title X money from the state.
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From the Miami County Herald:
Commissioner Danny Gallagher made a motion to approve the grant applications excluding the $9,000 that would have been used for contraceptives. The total amount of the family planning grant would drop from $31,306.74 to $22,306.74, with most of the remaining money going toward staff salaries.
According to sources, the county will, in all probability, lose the entire $32,000 grant because the guidelines do not allow for cherry picking. Miami County Health Department volunteer Kelly Fritz stated the following to the Miami County Republic:
Fritz said Miami County’s program serves 151 women, 116 of whom do not have insurance. She also said that statistics show that 85 percent of women who are regularly sexually active will become pregnant within one year without family planning services, and she estimated that 98 of the 116 women without insurance would become pregnant if the services were no longer provided.
The community is organizing against the measure and held a rally over the weekend. Again from the Miami County Republic:
Nearly 100 individuals from across Miami County marched through the heart of Paola on Saturday morning in protest of the Miami County Commission’s recent decision to eliminate contraception from a grant funding request.
One person held a sign that read ”Miami County, where women’s health care is controlled by farmers.” The sign was commentary about Miami County Commissioner Pretz, who received $85,000 in farm subsidies… you know…”government money.” Mr. Pretz cast a vote declining the Title X funds stating that he doesn’t believe taxpayers should be paying for contraceptives to be given out at the health department.
Commissioner Wise also weighed in with his vote and these words…
“If these people want contraceptives, than they need to purchase them,” Wise said. “If they get pregnant, than they need to take care of the child.”
The grassroots activists at the rally in Miami County brought a message to Commissioner Wise with t-shirts that stated, “Take A Stand, It’s More Than Sex.” The shirt listed the numerous health conditions beyond pregnancy prevention for which the pill is commonly prescribed.
It remains to be seen if this will be the beginning of a trend that will spread to other Kansas counties, fueled by the national GOP hatred for contraception. “Religious conscience” has morphed into “government conscience.” But Kansas women know the truth… many elected officials in Kansas know no conscience, which is grossly apparent from the legislative attacks on women’s health. In 2012, we have seen definitively, swiftly and decisively a war that moved from abortion to a war on contraception for those that need it the most.
The Miami County Commission met again to reconsider acceptantance of the Title X funding. The following is from the Osawatomie Graphic…
Callie Benton of Paola said birth control is covered under county employee health plans, and she asked commissioners why they didn’t address that coverage. Although the two sides of the debate may never agree, she added, the commissioners should be able to agree on fair treatment.
Paola resident April Bright said she used the health department to obtain birth control after her husband lost his job. As a social welfare student at the University of Kansas, she also works with women who use services like the county’s health department.
Gina Sallman, Holy Trinity Catholic Church youth minister, said she would rather pay to support children than birth control.
Commissioner Pretz stated…
That he supports the use of contraceptives to treat disorders such as endometriosis, but he questioned if there are other options to support family planning at the health department that would allow the county more control over who gets contraceptives and what they’re used for.
The commission decided to stand by its original decision. The women of Miami County will no longer be able to obtain contraception from their county health department.
The anger and frustration is being felt by many residents, one of which stated in a private email to Rewire…
The chairman of the Board allowed out of county residents to make 5 minute statements. If this isn’t religious seizure of ones government, then one of you are going to have to explain to me, the difference.