Since the age of 16, Amanda Reykdal has relied on Planned Parenthood's Everett clinic as her primary health care provider. Now a 24-year-old senior at Washington State University, she still depends on Planned Parenthood for her annual breast exams, regular thyroid exams (she has a thyroid condition), and free birth control.
"I'm a full-time student," Reykdal explains. "If I didn't have Planned Parenthood, I wouldn't have birth control. I couldn't afford it. And if I were to get pregnant, I don't know what I'd do."
Planned Parenthood and women like Reykdal scored a national victory last week when the US Senate voted to maintain more than $300 million in federal funding for the organization's basic preventative care services—Pap smears, cancer screenings, and STI testing (after the GOP-controlled House voted overwhelmingly to defund it).
But women in Washington State didn't dodge the bullet.
On April 12, the state senate introduced a budget proposal that included a $4.5 million reduction in family planning spending over the next two years—essentially replicating the national threat of cutting off thousands of women from breast exams, affordable contraception, and other services.
"We're basically talking about more than 9,000 women and families losing access to basic preventative care in Washington," explains Dana Laurent, political director for Planned Parenthood Votes! Washington.
Senator Ed Murray (D-43), chair of the state senate's budget-making Ways & Means Committee, acknowledges the cuts are bad but says they could've been much worse (the state is trying to mitigate a $5.1 billion budget shortfall). On April 15, Murray and his Democratic cohorts pushed through a last-minute amendment that reduced the cuts to $2.25 million over the biennium. "If the Republicans had their way, the funding would be gone altogether," Murray says. But he also points out that in Governor Chris Gregoire's budget proposal, funding was eliminated completely. If there is a war on women's health, he says, "it was a female Democratic governor who wanted to eliminate all funding for family planning."
Under Gregoire, the past three state budget cycles have cut the Department of Health's family planning budget by nearly one-third. As a result, county clinics across the state have cut their hours or stopped offering family planning services altogether (and two Planned Parenthood clinics have closed their doors). Those cuts come at a cost: The Guttmacher Institute, an independent sexual health research firm, estimates that every dollar cut from family planning services results in $4.39 in unintended-pregnancy costs. By that estimate, the proposal on the table this year (cutting $2.25 million) would result in almost $10 million in unintended-pregnancy costs to the state over the biennium—hardly the savings state officials are looking for.
"Nationally, locally, we're stretched to the brink," says Laurent. "The attack we've seen on women's health these past few months is just the beginning of what we're going to see."
This article has been updated since its original publication.