CALIFORNIA: HEALTH DEPT. VOWS TO CONTINUE PRENATAL CARE
San Francisco public health officials announced yesterdayThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
that they would "continue providing prenatal care to illegal
immigrant women despite" Gov. Pete Wilson's (R) "controversial
executive order" to cut such programs. SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
reports that the announcement followed "a unanimous vote on
Tuesday by defiant city health commissioners" who directed the
health department to continue providing prenatal care (Russell,
9/5). The state's Health Commission passed a resolution Tuesday
"urging" city officials to support the continuation of benefits
to illegal immigrants, SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER reports (Lewis,
9/5). Dr. Sandra Hernandez, San Francisco's public health
director, said that she is "trying to counter a public perception
that Wilson has already stopped funding the program." In fact,
Wilson's executive order, issued August 27, "only directs state
agencies to recommend" immigrant programs for potential cuts (see
AHL 8/28) (Russell, 9/5).
NO CARDING AT THE DOOR: Hernandez and others say they "fear
the new threat would keep illegal and legal immigrants from
seeking needed services" (EXAMINER, 9/5). At a press conference
"called to emphasize" that prenatal care remains available, she
said, "If you think you are pregnant, come in and get tested. We
will not be requesting any form of documentation."
REAX: Wilson's executive order aims to end the $70 million
prenatal care program that typically provides a series of
checkups "to assure that a pregnancy is going smoothly."
Immigrant rights attorneys are almost "certain" to challenge the
proposed cuts, the CHRONICLE reports. Thomas Peters, health
director in Marin County, said, "Everybody I've spoken with is
determined not only to hold the line on the service, but also to
tell a population that is understandably quite frightened that
these services remain available." Peters is "sharply critical"
of the cut in funding, calling Wilson's actions "mean-spirited"
and "financially irresponsible." A spokesperson for Wilson said,
"There are limited resources and limited dollars. Do we continue
to provide to people who broke the law to get here or low income
people who follow the rules and need help? Who are we going to
say 'no' to? It's a matter of fairness, really." The same
spokesperson said that Wilson aims to implement the cuts within
AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION: Advocates of the program said
prenatal care is "an inexpensive way to improve the odds that a
child will be born healthy and at full term." CHRONICLE reports
that a premature birth can cost a California public hospital
"several hundred thousand dollars and can mean a lifetime of
problems" for the child, who would be a U.S. citizen (9/5).