Twice on Dec. 27, 2011, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., accused Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker of eliminating a cancer-screening program for low-income women.
"Scott Walker cuts cancer screenings for uninsured women, offers no alternatives," read Moore’s first statement on Twitter, the online messaging site that has some 200 million account holders.
"Walker kills women’s cancer screening program for political gain," her second tweet claimed.
In the messages, Moore cited two website articles about the state Well Woman program. Among other things, it provides tests for cancer for low-income women who don’t have insurance that covers such screenings.
The articles refer to Walker canceling a state contract with Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, which provides services related to the cancer screenings in four counties -- Winnebago, Fond du Lac, Outagamie and Sheboygan -- between Milwaukee and Green Bay.
In the vast majority of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, a county health department serves as the local coordinator for the screenings. But since the program was started in 1995, Planned Parenthood has had what now is a $130,000-per-year state contract to serve as coordinator in the four counties. In that role, Planned Parenthood uses two employees to help women sign up for and receive the cancer screenings. In 2010, 715 women in the four counties were served, according to the state Department of Health Services.
So did Walker kill a cancer-screening program for poor women?
In a word: No.
1. The contract in question was for helping women sign up for and get the screenings, not the screenings themselves. The screenings are separate. Some are done by Planned Parenthood, but they also are done by other health care providers.
2.Walker’s administration did end Planned Parenthood’s contract -- but neither the assistance Planned Parenthood provided, nor the screenings themselves, ever ended. Indeed, the change put the four counties on par with how the program is handled in most of the rest of the state.
When we asked Moore spokeswoman Nicole Williams if she had additional evidence to back Moore’s charges against Walker, she provided a news release from Planned Parenthood. But that release made clear both the assistance and the screenings would continue.
So let’s see how Moore, who counts Planned Parenthood as an ally, got it all wrong.
Walker moves to end contract
Walker and Planned Parenthood are political foes. Planned Parenthood’s services -- unrelated to the Well Woman program -- include abortion, which Walker opposes. And two weeks before losing its contract, the organization announced its support of the campaign to recall Walker from office in 2012. Walker earlier in 2011 moved to cut Planned Parenthood’s public funding for family planning services.
Controversy over the contract surfaced in December 2011.
Dec. 1, 2011: The state health department, according to Planned Parenthood, notifies Planned Parenthood by phone that its contract would end effective Jan. 1, 2012.
So, it’s clear the Walker administration abruptly ended the longtime contract -- but that didn’t mean an end to the cancer screenings or the assistance that Planned Parenthood was providing in the four counties.
Dec. 23, 2011: The state health department announces that Winnebago County would take over the screening assistance in the four counties and that there would be a transition.(The news release did not mention that the assistance would be transitioned from Planned Parenthood.)
So, the state made it clear the cancer screening-related services would continue. The change to Winnebago County puts the four counties in the same position as nearly all other counties in that a local health department, rather than a private agency such as Planned Parenthood, will serve as the local coordinator.
But again, that’s not ending the screenings, which was Moore’s claim.
Dec. 27, 2011: On the day Moore issued her tweets, Planned Parenthood announces it had agreed to continue providing assistance for the screenings for 60 days past the end of its contract.
So, Planned Parenthood itself made it clear that neither the screenings nor the assistance in getting the screenings would end.
How Moore went wrong
Moore used as her tweets, almost word for word, the headlines from the two website articles she linked to in the tweets. Both articles incorrectly reported that Walker had ended entirely the screenings in question.
Moore’s spokeswoman said Moore’s tweets were merely relating what the articles said. But neither article was from a straight news source. And Moore is responsible for stating bad information, even if it came from another source. That’s the approach PolitiFact has consistently taken, with Democrats and Republicans alike.
A Dec. 17, 2011, Forbes.com article Moore cited was written by a contributor who took the stance that Walker was playing politics with the contract. And a Dec. 20 article she linked to was written by the left-leaning Huffington Post political website.
As for why Planned Parenthood’s contract was canceled, Walker explained his decision, in a news article his spokesman provided to us, by saying:
"There are many clinics that are not as controversial as Planned Parenthood, and our goal was to make sure low-income women had access to those sorts of screenings from other providers around the state that don't carry the controversy you get with Planned Parenthood."
Doug Gieryn, director of the Winnebago County Health Department, told us that local health officials were happy with Planned Parenthood’s work and upset that the state ended its contract. But as for Moore’s claim that Walker eliminated the cancer screenings, Gieryn said: "That’s inaccurate."
And by quite a lot.
Moore said Walker eliminated "cancer screenings for uninsured women" in four Wisconsin counties and offered "no alternatives." But all Walker eliminated was a contract with Planned Parenthood for assisting women in getting the screenings.
And the screenings never ended -- nor did the assistance Planned Parenthood provided.
Moore’s claim was false and ridiculous -- our definition of Pants on Fire.
(Editor's note: In the original version of this story, published Jan. 6, 2012, we stated Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin does not provide the actual cancer screenings. Planned Parenthood does offer the screenings separately from the contract that was canceled, which involved helping women sign up for the screenings. )