Beginning in 2015, elected officials and anti-choice activists began to use a deceptively-edited video smear campaign against Planned Parenthood to argue for defunding the health care provider. As with earlier funding disputes, federal and state attacks again have begun to trickle down to the local level, with local anti-choice activists falsely accusing Planned Parenthood of illegal activity and incorrectly insisting that other health care providers could fill the gap left by defunding Planned Parenthood. The National Institute for Reproductive Health stands with Planned Parenthood and all reproductive health care providers, who provide invaluable services to their local communities.
- Read More: Rewire: Not In My Backyard! As Local Government Attacks on Women’s Health Increase, Citizens Are Fighting Back
- Learn how a state-level defunding attempt is impacting municipal and county funding of reproductive health care in Florida.
Municipal and County Disputes over Family Planning Funding
The following month, Greg Rice and other anti-choice residents returned to the monthly Board of County Commissioners meeting to again request the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Rice again called Planned Parenthood “not necessary” as a health care provider in the County, and again cited Attorney General Mike DeWine’s biased report. Commissioners Herier and Detrick, citing Clark County’s high teen pregnancy rate, continued to refuse to defund Planned Parenthood. They also mentioned that the County funds an anti-choice crisis pregnancy center and support services for young parents, to use “every possible weapon we have” against teen pregnancy. This statement stigmatizes teen parents and contains inaccurate and worrisome implications – deceptive crisis pregnancy centers are not effective in preventing pregnancy and do not provide reproductive health care. Nonetheless, the Commissioners’ steadfast support of Planned Parenthood and the continuation of this funding is a victory for reproductive health in Clark County.
- Read coverage of the Board of Commissioners’ decision in the Post Independent and RH Reality Check.
- The Post Independent also covered the activist crowdfunding response.
- Visit the crowdfunding page on GoFundMe.com.
- Read Aspen Public Radio’s coverage of local activists presenting their $25,000 check to their local Planned Parenthood in Glenwood, CO.
In response, nearly 100 Miami County residents attended a Saturday morning protest to voice their opposition to the exclusion of contraception funding. Community leaders have contacted the ACLU for support in filing litigation against the county for their decision. A local newspaper, the Osawatomie Graphic, published an editorial criticizing the decision and calling on residents to make their voices heard to the Commissioners. According to Kelly Fritz, a health department volunteer, 116 of the 151 county women served by the program did not have health insurance and so face a high risk of becoming pregnant in the next year without the program funding.
After discovering that they could not reject the $8,000 contraceptive grant without rejecting all Title X funding for the County, the Commission chose to revisit the issue at their next meeting. After an hour of discussion in which both sides were equally supported, the Commission decided not to vote again on the issue, therefore rejecting $32,000 in Title X funding. Following the decision, residents of Miami County raised over $9,000 to cover the cost of contraceptives for low-income women for the next year but clarified that it was emergency funding and they expected the Commission to change their votes the following year.
The acceptance of funding then went to the New Hanover County Commission for a vote. Guided by Catlin’s belief that funding IUDs was “using taxpayer dollars to fund someone’s irresponsibility”, the all-male Commission voted unanimously to reject the funds. An immediate outraged response ensued, with the ACLU of North Carolina and Planned Parenthood Health Systems releasing statements condemning the decision. National blogs posted the contact information for Commissioners, who fielded hundreds of calls and emails on the topic, and a petition was posted on Change.org, garnering over a thousand signatures. Jonathan Barfield, the lone Democrat on the Commission, stated that he regretted his decision and was speaking with the county’s legal staff to determine if the issue could be reconsidered. A demonstration against the decision took place at a park in Wilmington.
In response, the Commission voted to reconsider the issue at their next meeting on April 2, 2012. Hundreds of people gathered that day to protest their initial decision and show support for family planning. During the meeting, the Health Department made a presentation on the value of IUDs and five residents spoke, with only one voicing her opposition to the funding. The Commission voted 3-2 to accept the $9,000 grant for IUDs for low-income women, with Commissioner Davis stating “I now realize that a woman is being responsible when she seeks contraception from the health department.”
A strong community response pushed for approval of the family planning grant. The Chattanooga Times ran an editorial criticizing the Commission’s original vote and subsequent delay. Chattanooga Organized for Action (COA) organized a rally on the day of the delayed vote, and several letters to the editor were published supporting family planning. The Health Department administrator made a presentation on the services provided under this grant. After this display of community support, the Commission voted unanimously to approve the family planning contract. In a further show of their newfound commitment to family planning, in April 2012 the Hamilton County Commission approved a resolution authorizing the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health department to sign a five-year, $2.9 million extension with the Tennessee Department of Health for the provision of family planning services.
Two religious leaders spoke at the Board of Supervisors meeting the following week. Pastor Jeff Wartgow argued in support of Women’s Health Services, questioning the assumption that most county taxpayers were opposed to funding the clinic. Pastor John Booth spoke against funding and presented a letter of opposition signed by 30 members of his church. Following these statements, the Board unanimously passed a resolution that excluded the $5,000 grant for Women Health’s Services, denying them county funding for the first time in four years.
Before the Longmont City Council could vote on whether to provide funding to the Teen Clinic, the clinic withdrew its request for funding. In their statement, they said that they were focused on providing health care, not becoming an advocacy organization. They felt that the discussion about family planning funding needed to happen in the larger community of Longmont instead of the politically charged environment of the City Council. The clinic will try to raise the requested funds from supporters instead.
Former State Senator Jesse Laslovich wrote an op-ed arguing for the preservation of the funds, emphasizing the importance of family planning in keeping families healthy and safe. On the day of the vote, more than 100 citizens attended the town hall and more than 50 people spoke, the majority in favor of funding the clinic. In response to this show of support, the Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to grant the family planning funds for fiscal year 2012, under the condition that the clinic finds a new source of revenue for fiscal year 2013.
However, in January 2012 the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) sent the Board of Commissioners a letter of intent to assess their interest in accepting Title X funding for fiscal year 2013. If the Board chose to reject the funds, DPHHS would solicit interest from other Ravalli County organizations capable of providing the family planning services. The Ravalli County Board of Health sent a letter of support to the Board of Commissioners urging them to accept the Title X funding. After some debate, the Board voted 3-2 to accept the funds. The condition that the clinic eventually find a new source of revenue was not included in this latest motion.
Update: In September 2013, the Ravalli County Commission voted again on the decision to request about $50,000 in Title X funding. The Commission first addressed the issue at a meeting that resulted in a 2-2 deadlock. As a result, they scheduled an emergency meeting at which the fifth Commissioner would be able to be in attendance in order to make the final decision. The public was not informed of this emergency meeting, and only a handful of community members were in attendance when the Board voted to reject the funding request, 3-2. The Title X clinic in Ravalli County currently provides STI and cancer screening and family planning services to more than 400 local low-income women, but the Supervisors who voted against the request cited the requirement that family planning services for adolescents be held confidential as the impetus behind their decision. Commissioner Greg Chilcott stated that “the majority of the board found the social costs were more of a liability than the benefits are worth.”
In response to community outrage, the Board scheduled another meeting for community members to voice their opinion on the issue. More than 70 community members were in attendance, the vast majority of whom spoke in favor of accepting the Title X dollars. However, after three and a half hours of testimony, the Commission chose not to reconsider accepting the funding, thus marking the first time in 40 years that Ravalli County would not offer family planning services.
While Christ Community already offers some family planning services and has a significant presence in the community, they do not offer abortion referrals or emergency contraception. Amid accusations that Christ Community outscored Planned Parenthood largely based on political reasons, the Commission allowed Planned Parenthood to resubmit their proposal for funding. On October 17, 2011, the Shelby County Commission voted 9-4 to contract with Christ Community Health Centers.