Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Update on Every Woman Counts

For some time now, I have been saying that the governor’s budget cuts this year come with a body count. Now comes unwelcome news that shows where the bodies of poor women of color will soon begin stacking up.

On March 4, The Elizabeth Center for Cancer Detection sent me a lengthy and detailed letter advising that its board of directors will vote to close the Center in April or May. The Center cannot survive financially due to the governor’s unilateral cuts to the Every Woman Counts (EWC) program. In shutting down California’s historic safety net for the poor, the governor seemed to think that the poor will find help elsewhere. The likely closure of The Elizabeth Center puts the lie to such fantasy.

The Elizabeth Center has served the Los Angeles community for over 65 years and has screened over 750,000 patients for cancer. The Center depends upon EWC for 85% of its funding. Of the 14,183 patients they screened last year, 12,012 were covered by EWC. The Elizabeth Center serves a patient population which is over 90% minority and low income; over 86% of their patients are Latina.

The Elizabeth Center said it best: “The denial of breast cancer screening to women under 50 means that an increasing number of these women will not be diagnosed through breast cancer screening until they are at an advanced stage of this disease, and many of them will die. The irony of this is that the Governor’s strategy will result in increased public costs….” [Emphasis mine]. Not to mention the toll on women and their families resulting from these preventable deaths.

This puts the governor’s priorities in perspective—women must die to create the perception that he is serious about addressing the state’s fiscal problems, even though the cuts save no money and the resulting deaths are preventable. Doubtless, these women are seen as mere collateral damage by the governor. Maybe he was type-cast as The Terminator?