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While Missouri may subsidize billionaires, it shortchanges vital programs. (Late Edition).

In the last issue we marshalled the opinions of experts on the financing of stadiums who unanimously denounced the use of public funds. We agree that subsidizing billionaires with Missouri's diminishing public funds is offensive.

Missouri has many other needs which deserve the support of legislators. Paula Gianino and Peter Brownlie, CEOs of Planned Parenthood in St. Louis and in Kansas/Mid-Missouri respectively, have one suggestion, the Missouri Family Planning Program established in 1993 by the late Gov. Mel Carnahan.

The rest of this column is turned over to a report written by them for the Missouri Forum.

The Missouri Family Planning Program provides poor Missourians with birth control, HIV/AIDS testing, pap smears, breast and cervical cancer screenings and sexually transmitted disease diagnosis and treatment. And it saves taxpayers money. For every $1 spent on family planning services alone, taxpayers save $3 in healthcare costs.

Yet, since the program was first established, a small but highly vocal group has spent an enormous amount of time, energy and taxpayer resources fighting against the program, its services and its providers.

Why? Some opponents of the program are opposed to the use of contraceptive drugs and devices and do not want the state to fund them. Some opponents have tried to confuse the public by linking the program with abortion services. Yet, program funds do not pay for and have never paid for abortion services.

For proof, Missouri citizens need only go to repeated state and federal audits that have been conducted to ensure that family planning and disease prevention funds to not pay for abortion.

Family planning services and funds do reduce the need for abortion and save money with early prevention and detection of disease. Those are goals most Missouri citizens support.

Why shouldn't a low-income mother with cervical cancer receive treatment that will save her life? It's the same treatment available to those who have health insurance to pay for it.

Yet, this group has managed to thwart successful programs that meet these health-care goals. The political shortsightedness of this anti-family planning effort has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in drawn out legal battles, and is coming at the expense of the health and lives of Missouri women and families. As it is, the program isn't even meeting the needs of all the low-income women in Missouri who need health care.

Just take a look at these statistics:

* For every one person served through the program, there are five more in desperate need of those services who have absolutely nowhere to turn.

* Women who have regular gynecological care are up to seven times less likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer. Pap tests conducted during an annual family planning visit provide early detection of pre-cancerous and cancerous cells on the cervix.

* Breast cancer, if detected early, can mean a survival rate of 76-98 percent.

* Treating sexually transmitted infections can prevent spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, infant death, premature delivery, low birth weight, chronic respiratory problems, blindness, mental retardation and death.

* Voluntary child spacing improves both maternal and infant health.

In 2000, Missouri's family planning program was estimated to have prevented 9,000 unintended pregnancies. Missouri's family planning program works. And it could do much more if there were more providers and less political fighting.

Opponents of family planning have gone to all extremes to shut down vital services that save lives. Since 1999, thousands of eligible women and men have not had access to services in St. Louis and Kansas City because opponents have tried to keep the issue tied up in the courts.

Despite repeat rulings in favor of Planned Parenthood providing these services, opponents have tried one court after another, one judge after another, one delaying tactic after another. Just when we thought the legal battles were over, a circuit court judge has refused to dismiss the case. Another serious delay. More taxpayer dollars wasted. More people not being served.

The real ethical solution here would be to help the citizens of this state who need and want family planning and disease prevention services.

Rather than allowing one more taxpayer dollar to be spent supporting a narrow political agenda, Missouri must find the political vision and will to prioritize the health and well-being of our women and families--and save money in a tight budget- year.

Stop fighting. Planned Parenthood is a vital and necessary provider in the state's program. Stop playing politics with women's lives and health.
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Article Details
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Author:Klotzer, Charles L.
Publication:St. Louis Journalism Review
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2002
Previous Article:10 years ago. (In SJR).
Next Article:Invitations.

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