With a new fiscal year rapidly approaching and Gov. George Deukmejian holding fast to his threat to eliminate funding for the state's family planning program, local family planning officials Monday stepped up their campaign to keep the program's multimillion-dollar budget intact.
Stacks of postcards pre-addressed to the governor awaited patients visiting T.H.E. Clinic for Women in South Los Angeles, where officials gathered to protest the proposed budget cuts that would eliminate the state's Office of Family Planning and the $36.2 million it distributes to more than 170 clinics in the state.
"We're concerned that he virtually re-funded every program he'd cut back with the exception of (ours). . . . That's the urgency," said Thomas C. Kring, executive director of the Los Angeles Regional Family Planning Council, which is participating in a statewide letter-writing campaign to Deukmejian. "We're the only one that he's totally eliminated, and that's scary as hell."
Kring was referring to the governor's announcement Thursday to fund several health and welfare programs that he had previously marked for substantial cuts. The funding restoration was attributed to the discovery of a $2.5-billion state surplus.
However, the state family planning program was not included in the governor's proposal. Kring said the effects of the cuts, which could cause the closure of more than half of the 82 clinics subsidized by the state, are already being felt as staff members leave and patients stop coming to clinics that they believe may soon close.
The clinics provide a wide range of medical services ranging from pre-natal care to AIDS testing.
"Basically, we're being held hostage," said Kring, who believes that the governor is using the clinics' funding as a bargaining chip for his other budgetary goals. "And when I say we, I'm talking about low-income women . . . the poorest of the poor receiving care through these programs."
Though family planning services get some federal funding and private donations, officials estimate that more than half of the county clinics subsidized by the program would have to close if the $9.4 million they now receive is eliminated. The cut would affect more than 100,000 clients, according to Kring, many of whom are newly arrived immigrants with no access to welfare programs.
Without the state subsidized services, most of the women will go without medical care, according to clinic directors.
"They will be dying," said Catherine Wiley, who runs four comprehensive health care clinics in Los Angeles. "They do not have health insurance, they do not have money and most don't have Medi-Cal. . . . There's no other place for them to go."
Southern California family planning officials plan to hand deliver nearly 30,000 postcards to the governor's Los Angeles office June 15, asking him to restore the program's funding, Kring said. He added that a similar delivery will be made to Sacramento sometime this month, in the last days before a new fiscal year begins July 1.
Drive Began in February
The letter-writing campaign, coordinated by the California Reproductive Health Assn., began in late February, officials said.
Tom Beermann of the governor's Sacramento office said Deukmejian had received thousands of letters and cards concerning the family planning issue. But he added that whether such funding will be a part of the budget is "the subject of negotiations between the governor and the legislative leadership."