Louisiana House Speaker Chuck Kleckley last week called on the legislature to restore funding to the state program that provides breast and cervical cancer screenings to uninsured and underserved women, and Sen. Karen Carter Peterson chaired a committee focused on funding for women’s services.
Women testified about holes in funding for domestic violence shelters, pregnancy care, cancer screenings, and sexual health. Peterson called Governor Jindal’s budget proposal for next year irresponsible. According to Beth Meeks, from the Louisiana Coalition on Domestic Violence, the governor’s slashing of women’s services just doesn’t make fiscal sense.
“For every dollar we spend getting a protection order we save 30 dollars in other community costs," Meeks said. "Cutting these programs is like saying, ‘I ride a bicycle to work and I have decided that it’s too expensive to maintain, so I’m going to buy a Hummer to drive.’”
The budget would cut funding for the state’s breast and cervical cancer screening program for underinsured and underserved women, $700,000 total for a program that’s matched federally 3 to 1.
The budget, if passed as is, won’t eliminate funding for domestic violence shelters, but according to Tonya Lovelace from the Women of Color Network, the program will be decimated. “Coverage across the state is already a problem, as we speak," Lovelace said. "Out of the 64 parishes there are only 35 parish that currently have facilities that contain funded domestic violence services.”
According to last year’s report to the governor form the state’s Women’s Policy and Research Commission the state is sixth in the nation for rates of teen pregnancy, top five in a slew of STIs, fourth in domestic violence, 43rd in rates of female earning, and 49th in proportion of women in state government.
Sen. Peterson is sponsoring a bill to change that last statistic. Senate Bill 68 would create the Equal Pay for Women Act if passed.