(Updated to reflect new information from NARAL Pro-Choice Washington).
According to NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, the proposed state budget would eliminate about $1 million in funding over two years for nurses providing direct family-planning services to women in community service offices around the state. That's about 58 nurses, plus medical supplies and a state staffer to run the program. The federal government matches the state's funding 9 to 1, which means the cut really amounts to about $12 million. Even worse, the cut eliminates programs that actually save money in the long run—like prenatal care, cancer screening, annual exams, and birth control. Although local papers have praised Gregoire for "keeping her campaign pledge" not to raise taxes, they've mostly ignored another campaign pledge that was instrumental in her November victory over Dino Rossi—her promise "not to balance the budget on the backs of Washington's most vulnerable." Cutting family-planning funding for the state's poorest women would force them to go to county health clinics—and those, too, are getting cut or, in many cases, eliminated altogether.
In fairness to Gregoire, this proposal comes from the Department of Social and Human Services, not Gregoire herself; however, it's in response to a mandate that all government agencies slash funding—a mandate necessitated by the fact that Gregoire won't raise taxes or eliminate corporate tax loopholes.
Karen Cooper, director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, calls the proposal to cut the nurses' funding "stupid," both because it leverages so much federal money and because it will only cost the state more in the medium to long run. "Obviously, there are going to be cuts, but they need to be thoughtful and smart. You don't cut things that end up costing you more money," Cooper says. "If cutting birth control means there are more babies born in this state, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that that's going to increase [the state's] expenses. Birth control is cheaper than babies."
NARAL is also fighting to change the wording of the state's sex-education law, which currently requires the state to apply for funding for abstinence-only programs. NARAL's preferred wording would require the state to seek funding only for medically accurate, evidence-based sex education programs—programs for which more funding might become available under Obama, who has said he supports comprehensive sex ed. And the group is seeking renewed funding for a small program it runs to train residency doctors to treat spontaneous miscarriages in a doctor's office, rather than sending women to the emergency room, which can cost thousands of dollars more. That program costs about $600,000.
Cooper acknowledges that the state is facing tough economic times, but says that doesn't justify cutting entire programs. "Anybody can cut five percent out of a budget without cutting whole programs," she says. "We're doing it; so can they."