TULSA - The state health department will no longer fund WIC programs at the three Planned Parenthood clinics in Tulsa.
The decision, which could impact close to 3,000 low-income women and their children, is seen by some as politically-motivated. The move comes at a time when conservative lawmakers in some states, like Texas, are trying to end funding to Planned Parenthood because of its abortion services.
The state's WIC services director, Terry Bryce, said the decision was announced to Planned Parenthood last week.
"We didn't renew the contracts for funding reasons. We're uncertain of the funding for this coming year," said Bryce.
Bryce said the move will save $154,000. He said that would be enough to offset another round of cuts -should they materialize.
"We made a collective decision within the health department based on our needs and based on performance factors of Planned Parenthood," said Bryce.
But Planned Parenthood Heartland's president and CEO, Jill June, said defunding the three clinics in Tulsa will hurt families.
"Families that have counted on us will need to find other, and possibly less accessible, providers in order to receive WIC services," said June. "We call on the State to allow us to continue to be a place Oklahoma women and families can trust for these health services. Politics should never interfere with a woman's access to health services - or food for her children."
This past spring, some conservative Oklahoma lawmakers tried to prioritize state funding, making nonprofits last in line to receive funds. Planned Parenthood said it was another unsuccessful effort to limit funds to the organization.
The clinics in Tulsa do not perform abortions but do make referrals.
Planned Parenthood urged citizens to contact the governor and state health department to protest the decision.
Bryce defended the decision and said it was not political.
He added that there are still 14 other WIC service providers in Tulsa, including some which are within three miles of the Planned Parenthood locations.
Bryce said the health department was in the process of extending Planned Parenthood's contract to the end of the year, when funding will stop.
WIC, which stands for Women, Infant and Children, is federal assistance program that provides food vouchers to pregnant women and mothers with young children.
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