The Oklahoma State Department of Health has cut off its three affiliated Planned Parenthood clinics from receiving funding from the state's Women Infant and Children (WIC) Program, effective December 31st. WIC has provided funding to these clinics for the past 18 years -- allowing them to provide food vouchers, baby formula, nutrition counseling, and health screenings to approximately 3,000 low-income women and children each month.
The health department did not provide a reason for ending the contract with Planned Parenthood -- they said in a statement: "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."
Jill June, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, one of the nine contractors that currently receives WIC funds in Oklahoma, told the Tulsa World that she fears this is a "political attack." June said in a statement on Thursday, "We call on the State to allow us to continue to be a place Oklahoma women and families can trust for these health services. Politics should never interfere with a woman's access to health services -- or food for her children."
In 2011 the Oklahoma state legislature attempted and failed to pass a bill that would have prevented Planned Parenthood from participating in the WIC program because the organization also provides abortion referrals (none of the three clinics participating in the program actually offers abortion services).
The state of Oklahoma appears to be following in Texas' footsteps -- in August a court ruled in favor of Texas, allowing the state to move forward in banning government funding for Planned Parenthood under the Texas Women's Health Program. The program currently serves 100,000 low income women with Planned Parenthood as its largest provider, serving about 40% of its patients. Planned Parenthood said that the ruling will put the health of approximately 52,000 Texas women at risk. It is notable that the clinics being denied funding in Texas, like in Oklahoma, do not provide abortion services.
Media Resources: Huffington Post 10/4/12; Tulsa World 10/4/12; Think Progress 10/4/12
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