Jackson Baker has an update on the continuing partisan controversy over Planned Parenthood receiving state funds through Shelby County. Starts like this:
In a session Wednesday which saw opposing sides accuse each other of playing politics with a medical issue, the Hospitals and Health Committee of the Shelby County Commission voted 6-4 to defer action for three weeks on approval of Christ Community Health Center as a sub-contractor for women’s health services under Title X federal funding.
The vote was along party lines, with Democrats in the majority, and it prefigured what is certain to be a politically charged power struggle and cliff-hanger vote when the issue is revisited in committee on October 12 and in full public session for final disposition on October 17.
Christ Community Health Center had, along with Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region and the Memphis Health Center, answered an RFP (Request for Proposal) from the Shelby County Health Department, which under legislation passed earlier this year and subsequent state directives, is now the official contractor for such services rather than the state itself, as was the case in previous years.
County government leaders have decided not to contract with the local Planned Parenthood organization to provide family planning services for low-income people, reports the Commercial Appeal. Instead, Christ Community Health Services has been chosen for the $397,900 contract, Shelby County Health Department director Yvonne Madlock confirmed Tuesday.
“The bid was awarded, and it was not Planned Parenthood,” Madlock said, adding that this ends any local contracts with that organization.
The contract must still be approved by the County Commission. Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell hopes to have it before that board by the end of September.
Tennessee Right to Life, not surprisingly, has hailed this development via news release. It’s below
After quite a flap over state funding for Planned Parenthood, it appears that the organization will get at least $75,000 this year.
Here’s a release from the group’s Memphis-based chapter:
MEMPHIS, TN — The Tennessee Department of Health has awarded Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region (PPGMR) a federal grant to fund a major syphilis
elimination project in Shelby County, Tennessee.
The grant will provide funding to allow PPGMR to provide free syphilis testing
in its Health Center at 2430 Poplar Avenue and at an off-site after-hours
In 2009, Shelby County ranked fifteenth of all counties in the U.S. for
symptomatic syphilis. Shelby County has the highest number of newly-diagnosed
syphilis cases in Tennessee; and the infection rate for all stages of syphilis
is five times higher in Shelby County than in the U.S. overall.
PPGMR was chosen for this grant because of its proven track record of reaching
at-risk populations for HIV testing and prevention counseling and its strong
relationships with other community service providers in the Memphis area.
Thousands of Mid-South women and teens rely on Planned Parenthood Greater
Memphis Region for preventive and reproductive health care. To learn more about
PPGMR’s preventive health services and community outreach, please visit our
Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region (PPGMR), founded in 1938, is an
affiliate of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. PPGMR’s mission is to
ensure broad public access to reproductive and related health care through
clinic services, education, advocacy and community partnerships in serving 42
counties in West Tennessee, North Mississippi and East Arkansas.
— Note: From a Stacey Campfield blog comment on the development: “With the money shell game Planned Parenthood does that equates to a heck of a lot of free abortions.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Planned Parenthood chapter in Nashville is no longer getting government funds after a grant was diverted Friday to the city’s public health department.
An official of the agency said the controversy forcing the funding shift has benefits for Planned Parenthood, according to The Tennessean.
Gynecological examinations and birth control counseling offered by the group will cost patients more. However, Jeff Teague, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, says the public discussion about the group, which also provides abortions, has showcased the broader array of services the organization offers. By federal rules, government money did not pay for abortions.
“One of the things that’s been really interesting about this whole experience is that it has been a wonderful opportunity to educate,” Teague said. “In a real weird, perverse way . it’s helped people learn more about what Planned Parenthood does.”
Tennessee Republican “might suffer politically” from efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, suggests Jeff Woods in a report that says the move could cause “serious disruptions” in services to low-income women of Nashville and Memphis “leading to illnesses, unwanted pregnancies and more abortions.” State Democratic Party chairman Chip Forrester calls it “right-wing ideologues cramming their social agenda down the throats of Tennesseans least able to afford it.”
“This is partisan politics at its absolute worst,” he said. “These funds have nothing to do with abortion. They provide very basic medical care for women who are least able to afford it, and now we have women in our community who will not have access to these vital services.”
The governor has tried to cater to social conservatives without upsetting centrist swing voters by appearing insensitive to women’s health needs.
Even while pressuring the Nashville and Memphis health departments to defund Planned Parenthood, he insisted his “primary concern” was to “make certain we keep taking care of the people we take care of.”
Told that health officials fear thousands of women might lose services once Planned Parenthood is denied federal money beginning in July, the governor wouldn’t acknowledge the problem.
“It’s news to me if that’s true,” he said. “Nobody’s told me that.”
….Conservative (Nashville) talk-radio host Steve Gill, who hammered away on the air about this issue after this year’s legislative session, insisted it’s smart politics for Republicans. He claimed Planned Parenthood is using the federal grant to entice women into their clinics for abortions.
” ‘Republicans are causing poor women to die because they are getting cervical cancer.’ Is that going to be Planned Parenthood’s spin? Absolutely,” Gill said. “Is that going to be amplified by the media? Absolutely. If those two things happen, will it hurt Republicans? Absolutely. But if the truth comes out, then Planned Parenthood will not be welcomed or embraced by the voters.”
An array of groups on the political left gathered in Midtown (Memphis community) on Sunday to protest recent decisions and policies from the right, reports the Commercial Appeal. About 200 people representing several groups gathered at First Congregational Church in Cooper-Young. Those groups included the Tennessee Equality Project, Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region and the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center as well as union supporters.
They were protesting recent proposals from the Tennessee legislature, including removing funding from Planned Parenthood, ending collective bargaining for teachers and a measure that would prevent teachers from discussing homosexuality in classes.
“This last legislative session in Nashville should serve as a wake-up call for us,” Michelle Bliss with TEP said. “We’re here, we’re together and we will not be quiet.”
State Sens. Beverly Marrero and Antonio Parkinson joined the rally, as did city school board member Jeff Warren and County Commissioner Steve Mulroy. U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen showed up near the end of the event.
Having apparently accomplished their goal of shutting off about $1.1 million in funding to Planned Parenthood, Tennessee’s Republican leaders say they’re ready to abandon efforts to identify or publicize those responsible for a mystery amendment that had threatened to thwart their wishes.
“If you think you passed something and something else passed instead, you ought to dig in and find out why,” said Gov. Bill Haslam. “But it is not something I’m spending a lot of time trying to figure out.”
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said he has spent time trying to figure out what happened when the state budget bill was amended – without his knowledge or the knowledge of many other legislative leaders – to negate a provision inserted at the urging of Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, to “defund” Planned Parenthood.
“I really don’t know 100 percent what happened. I just have it in my mind what happened, and I’m going to try to get to the bottom of what happened,” Ramsey said.
But he added “that’s the stuff you work on behind the scenes” to ensure it does not happen again.
Asked if that means the results of his inquiry into what occurred and who was responsible will never be made public, Ramsey replied, “That’s a possibility.”
“It is sometimes a case of he-said, she-said kind of stuff,” Ramsey said. “I’m not into that at all. I’m a person who tries to find solutions.”
Campfield, too, said he is now ready to let bygones be bygones on the mystery amendment, which the senator earlier said left him “flabbergasted” and “disheartened.”
“We had to kiss a lot of ugly girls at the prom, but we took the pretty one home,” said Campfield. “As long as we got what I was looking for, which was defunding Planned Parenthood, I’m willing to let it drop.”
The Legislature’s Republican leaders say they were advised that Sen. Stacey Campfield’s effort to defund Planned Parenthood in the state budget bill was unconstitutional and they will try to accomplish the same objective with separate legislation next year.
“The confusion surrounding the language in the budget regarding Planned Parenthood has been unfortunate,” said Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell in a joint statement issued Friday.
The statement and interviews with legislators, however, left in place confusion over how the House and Senate approved a budget bill containing Knoxville Republican Campfield’s amendment to block state funding to Planned Parenthood and, at the same time, included another amendment that apparently negated it.
“Everybody’s a virgin, but somehow we got pregnant,” said Campfield.
Sen. Stacey Campfield said Wednesday that he may ask Gov. Bill Haslam to use a line item veto to remove a provision in the state budget bill that could allow continued funding to Planned Parenthood despite another provision to stop it.
The governor, who has previously declared support for “defunding” Planned Parenthood, told reporters that “obviously something went wrong in the legislative process which they need to straighten out themselves” before he considers any action.
“I didn’t even know about the situation until this morning and I haven’t even thought about the possibility of using a line item veto,” Haslam said. “The Legislature thought they had passed one thing and then later found out they didn’t. Somewhere there was a disconnect.”
Last week, at the urging of Knoxville Republican Campfield, a budget bill amendment was adopted to block funding from going to Planned Parenthood. But that provision apparently was negated by another amendment tucked into the voluminous appropriations act.
Sen. Stacey Campfield said today that he plans to ask Gov. Bill Haslam to use a line item veto to remove a provision in the state budget bill that could allow continued funding to Planned Parenthood authority.
Asked for comment, Haslam spokesman David Smith sent this statement:
“There’s some confusion on the legislative side about what was approved, and until they clear that up and we know what’s coming to us, we’ll reserve comment on the situation.”
At the urging of Campfield, R-Knoxville, a budget bill amendment was adopted last week to block state funding from going to Planned Parenthood. But that provision apparently was negated by another amendment tucked into the voluminous appropriations act.
Campfield said Tuesday he believed that his amendment had been deliberately sabotaged by legislative staff against the wishes of himself and others, including Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, after they had been told the overturn language would be deleted.
Today, Campfield said he had spoken with Doug Himes, a legislative attorney who handles budget drafting. Hime said, according to Campfield, that “someone on the House side” had instructed staff to put the overturn amendment back into the budget bill.
Himes declined to say who had issued those instructions, citing the attorney-client privilege that exists between the Legislature’s lawyers and the members of the Legislature. In an interview with a reporter, Himes said he could not even comment on whether he had spoken with Campfield.
But both Himes and Joseph Barnes, director of legal services for the Legislature, said staff would never make an alteration to the budget bill or any other legislation except on instructions of a legislator.
“We don’t gratuitously add language to the appropriations act,” said Barnes. “We follow instructions and directions of the members.”
In the House, Speaker Beth Harwell has ultimate authority for directing legal staff. She has not been available for comment today.