Governor Scott Walker’s War on Birth Control and Women’s Health

When he was running for Wisconsin Governor last year, then-candidate Scott Walker released a television ad (called one of the best of the 2010 primary election season by The Washington Post’s political analysts) in which he burnished his folksy, penny-pinching credentials. The commercial shows Walker bragging about how he packs a brown bag every day to save money on lunch, and ends with this call-to-action:

“If you’ve had it with big government like I have, join us…”

All well and good. Fast forward to 2011, and real budget-minded people have to ask: How can anyone buy Governor Scott Walker’s blatant economic and moral hypocrisy? And why is he trying to destroy birth control coverage for Wisconsin’s women, when we know that every $1 spent on birth control saves taxpayers $4.02 (source: Guttmacher Institute)?

Because maybe it’s not about the economy and saving us money at all. From an AP report yesterday (hat tip to Think Progress):

Gov. Scott Walker’s budget would repeal a state law requiring insurance companies cover prescription birth control.

Walker’s budget released Tuesday would undo the law signed in 2009 by his Democratic predecessor Gov. Jim Doyle. Passage of the bill, which took effect last year, came after more than a decade of trying by Democrats.

The mandate had been fought by anti-abortion groups and Catholics but supported by Planned Parenthood and public health groups.

Given Congressional Republicans’ recent attempt to zero out vital family planning funding — and slash the social safety net at the expense of the lives of young and low-income women and children in particular — it’s not surprising that far-right governors would turn to the same playbook. By now this two-step tactic is already old hat: 1) put yourself in the media spotlight and pretend that you are some kind of fiscal responsibility Rambo, while 2) doing everything in your power to implement stupid economics (e.g., gutting birth control coverage) in the service of some anti-women, anti-youth, and anti-family ideology.

Governor Walker’s budget, by the way, also would eliminate Wisconsin’s only state-funded family planning health care program, which “ensures access to critical health care services for uninsured Wisconsinites including cervical, breast, and prostate cancer screening, well women exams, sexually transmitted disease screening and treatment, and access to contraception.”

Eliminating cancer screening for those in need. I guess that’s Governor Walker’s version of packing a mostly empty brown bag for the people of Wisconsin.

If there’s one immediate silver lining here, it’s that more and more Wisconsinites aren’t buying Scott Walker’s scorched-earth policies. A new poll from Rasmussen (a Republican-leaning firm) shows that 63% of Wisconsin likely voters aged 18-39 are essentially opposed to the Governor’s attempt to undermine collective bargaining rights. I only hope that pollsters ask these same young people what they think about Walker trying to take away their birth control.

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