One benefit to come from the implosion of the Komen for the Cure brand after its overtly-political decision to defund cancer screening grants to Planned Parenthood is the spotlight focused on the less-direct avenues the hard right is taking to attack access to women’s health care services.
A good example of these back-door efforts to strip Planned Parenthood of funding is going on in Tennessee. This week Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region and Planned Parenthood Middle and East Tennessee sued the Tennessee Department of Health in federal court to restore preventative care funding under the HIV Prevention Services Grant program and the Syphilis Elimination Grant program.
Planned Parenthood won funding for community education and health services work in these programs in August 2011 after a competitive bidding process. In December 2011 those grant contracts were dropped without explanation and without identifying a qualified provider to meed the need left by the elimination of Planned Parenthood from these prevention programs.
While no explanation was given, one was very apparent. A number of Tennessee politicians took up the campaign to strip Planned Parenthood of all funds over abortion. The Republican-led administration then began a plan to “administratively defund” Planned Parenthood by doing things like removing this kinds of grants.
In this case especially the political motives are completely transparent. PPGMR was the first organization in Memphis to begin rapid testing for HIV, and its HIV “Master Trainers” train more new HIV testers every year than any other agency in the area. Following a June 2011 site visit, the Department of Health’s HIV Prevention Testing Program Director commended PPGMR’s “dedication to HIV prevention and the community” and stated that he “look[ed] forward to working with Planned Parenthood in the future.”
Similarly, PPMET’s Education and Training department provides STD prevention education through relationships with more than 100 organizations, and is a primary source of training for professionals who educate youth on STD prevention and other issues. In 2011, PPMET exceeded the number of people it proposed to serve with a fixed grant amount by more than 1,000 individuals.
Planned Parenthood is not backing down in the face of this pressure. “We take our commitment to caring for the tens of thousands of Tennesseans who rely on us for a wide range of health care seriously. That is why we are asking the court to stop this politically motivated attack on the patients and community members who count on us,” said Barry Chase, PPGMR’s CEO. “Planned Parenthood is exceptionally equipped to provide HIV Prevention health care and education to the community, and because of that, we have repeatedly won competitive bids for funding under this critical program.”
The suit challenges the funding decision and argues that Planned Parenthood was kicked out of the HIV and syphilis elimination programs for providing comprehensive women’s health care in violation of Title X and the Constitution and argues the funding needs to be immediately restored.
In 2011, 17,698 women, men and teens relied on Planned Parenthood’s nonprofit health centers in communities throughout Tennessee for a wide range of quality, affordable health care services including annual exams, birth control counseling and care, reproductive cancer screenings, STD prevention and treatment and abortion care. Planned Parenthood clinics and services reaches populations other health clinics do not. It’s time the attacks on poor women and teenagers stop.
Photo from steakpinball via flickr.