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Gov. Tony Evers pitches $28M for women’s health care issues

MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers wants to restore funding for Planned Parenthood that his Republican predecessor cut as part of a nearly $28 million plan to expand access to women’s health care.

But the measure faces long odds in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

“Republicans are not going to put one more nickel into Planned Parenthood,” Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told reporters. “We have done everything we can to try to make sure that we protect human life. I certainly think that giving more money to the state’s largest abortion provider is not something that I can ever see our caucus doing.”

Evers unveiled the “Healthy Women, Healthy Babies” proposal Thursday, Feb. 21. It will be in the two-year budget he presents on Feb. 28.

The Capital Times reports Thursday that the governor’s initiative will focus on boosting post-partum coverage for mothers insured by Medicaid and increasing grants for programs that address health disparities. The plan would also add funding to programs that provide screenings for cancer and testing for sexually transmitted infections.

“We can’t have healthy communities without healthy women and babies,” Evers said in a statement.

Evers also wants to focus on reducing racial health disparities in infants. For 30 years, black infants in Wisconsin have been two to three times more likely to die in their first year than white infants. The infant mortality rate for white infants was 4.8 per 1,000 live births, compared with 14.2 deaths per 1,000 live births for black infants from 2014 to 2016.

To address those disparities, Evers is proposing moving five existing positions from the Department of Health Services to staff an Infant Mortality Prevention Program. The program’s goal would be to help families find employment, stable housing, and access to nutritional and family supports.

Organizations that serve disadvantaged communities of color with high health disparities would receive $767,200 in grants.

Evers’ proposal also makes Planned Parenthood eligible for federal funds and a women’s health block grant that the administration of former Republican Gov. Scott Walker stripped away. Evers is proposing allocating $387,200 to the women’s health block grant, which gives money to public health departments and private organizations that offer cancer screenings, STI prevention, testing and treatment, as well as prenatal counseling.

“We’re proud to support these measures and partner with the Evers administration to ensure healthier outcomes for women and babies in our state,” Tanya Atkinson, president of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, said in a statement.

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