Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Victory for Oklahoma!

After women and families throughout Oklahoma voiced their strong opposition to a targeted attack on Planned Parenthood that threatened the health of needy infants and children, state lawmakers have allowed the bill to die in committee. At risk were critical food vouchers and nutrition services for the prenatal and pediatric clients that Planned Parenthood serves in Tulsa County. Legislative session formally concludes tomorrow.

The amendment, attached to SB 709, would have defunded Planned Parenthood’s Women Infant and Children (WIC) program in Oklahoma. The amendment applied to 9 organizations, but it was clearly a targeted attack that would have solely excluded Planned Parenthood from being able to provide nutrition vouchers to families participating in its prenatal and pediatric programs.

In opposition to the amendment, the Tulsa World editorial board (May 14, 2011) wrote, Here's the crux of the matter: In kicking Planned Parenthood out of the WIC program, lawmakers won't be punishing Planned Parenthood. They'll be punishing poor women who chose to have their babies and are trying to take care of them.

“We are extremely pleased that legislators in the State Senate and House have decided to end their dangerous political assault on the health of Oklahoma families. It is clear that the people of Oklahoma had no appetite for a bill that would have taken away much-need food vouchers from infants and children,” said Nancy Kachel, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma. “This targeted political attack would have prevented Planned Parenthood from providing critical prenatal and pediatric care to women and children in Tulsa County. Allowing this bill to die has prevented what would have been a devastating impact on thousands of families.”

Earlier this month 150 Planned Parenthood supporters gathered at the Capital to express concern for Oklahoma women and families.

Planned Parenthood in Tulsa County has been committed to helping pregnant women have healthy babies for over 20 years with its prenatal program. They started full pediatrics 15 years ago when women and their families found it difficult to find a physician that had any openings.

Tulsa and surrounding counties’ patients rely on Planned Parenthood for prenatal services and later, full pediatric programs, which include immunizations, early screenings for hearing, vision, speech, physical and social development, and general health care. Planned Parenthood health centers in Tulsa County typically provide about 8,600 prenatal visits, and 5,600 pediatric visits a year.

Funding from the WIC program is critical to achieving healthy outcomes for Planned Parenthood’s prenatal care clients who badly need the nutrition and food vouchers provided by WIC to ensure healthy babies. After birth, WIC staff weighs, measures and tracks babies’ growth, and provide food vouchers to parents for their babies – and their babies’ siblings – to ensure healthy growth and development.

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