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
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .