Defunding of Planned Parenthood stirs state health questions

Sunday, June 26, 2011 at 10:05pm
Jude Ferrara (SouthComm) 

Pro-life activists in Tennessee have chalked it up as a great victory: Together with Gov. Bill Haslam and the Republicans running state government, they have succeeded in stripping Planned Parenthood of public funding.

But what have they really accomplished? The $1.1 million in federal money that went to Planned Parenthood did not pay for abortions. Federal funding of abortions is illegal.

Instead, it paid for health exams, cancer screenings and family planning for thousands of low-income women in Nashville and Memphis. Critics say the Planned Parenthood defunding will cause serious disruptions in those services, leading to illnesses, unwanted pregnancies and more abortions.

At the same time, Republicans might suffer politically. After an aggressively conservative legislative session in which they abolished teachers’ collective bargaining rights and invalidated Nashville’s nondiscrimination ordinance, among other hard-line measures, they have given Democrats another opportunity to tar the GOP as extreme — a party willing to sacrifice the health of poor women to pander to the anti-abortion movement.

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.”

Defunding Planned Parenthood is a national crusade for the pro-life movement and a litmus-test issue for Republicans around the country. This year, Republicans pushed congressional budget negotiations to the brink by trying to shut off public money for the organization, and Planned Parenthood funding was targeted in 11 state legislatures.

In Tennessee, social conservatives began clamoring for Haslam to act after a legislative budget amendment to defund Planned Parenthood was secretly negated at the 11th hour of this year’s session. Someone in the Republican leadership must have done it because no one else could have pulled it off. But no one has been willing to confess. That’s how powerful the pro-life movement is in the party. At least one lawmaker was so outraged he called for a TBI investigation to find the culprit. 

At Haslam’s urging in the midst of this controversy, state Health Commissioner Susan Cooper pressured the health departments in Memphis and Nashville to accept the federal money that had been going to Planned Parenthood, although officials in both cities warned they couldn’t provide the same services to as many women.

Officials say the federal grant will run out in roughly six months in both Nashville and Memphis, leaving as many as 6,000 women patients to fend for themselves. Planned Parenthood has made up the funding gap in the past out of donations from supporters. In Nashville, that cost Planned Parenthood more than $100,000 last year. In Memphis, it was $500,000. But the health departments in Nashville and Memphis can’t afford to do that. Both are cutting their health budgets to cope with the faltering economy.

The upshot is “more pregnant women and more cases of STDs undiagnosed and untreated, and more cases of uterine cancer undiagnosed,” said Memphis Planned Parenthood president Barry Chase. 

“That money is an investment to prevent disease, to prevent unplanned pregnancies, to help women lead a more productive life for themselves and for their families,” he said. “The legislature, when they cut that money away from Planned Parenthood, fundamentally said, ‘We don’t care what happens to you. Women are not important to us.’ That’s what the Republicans said.”

Metro Health Director Bill Paul said he agreed to the defunding of Planned Parenthood because he was afraid that, if he didn’t, the legislature would retaliate by eliminating the federal grant altogether. 

“We felt we could preserve the services for Davidson County by taking this on as a health department,” Paul said. “I honestly was quite concerned that the money would go away completely.” 

Paul said he hopes nonprofit family planning providers will fill the unmet need. Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, said she worries the health department will have to start turning away women from clinics. 

“The only thing Republicans have accomplished is cutting health services to women,” she said. “That’s not anything to be proud of.” 

Conservative 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.”  

27 Comments on this post:

By: pswindle on 6/26/11 at 10:56

Our Governor said. "No one told me." Doesn't this scare the daylights out of you. Is he not reading or doing his homework on basic issues as Planned Parenenthood.
Steve Gill is a man, and he can afford healthcare for the women in his life. TN had better wake up, the men are going after women in every respect. They took down the teachers' rights because they could. Haslam is going to be too busy defending his business practices according to the Sunday Tennessean. He may be saying that to a lot of issues, "No one told me."

By: Kosh III on 6/27/11 at 6:19

The best way to prevent abortion is by family planning and birth control but since this issue involves SEX, the GOP/Conservatives will do all they can to intrude government into the private lives of allegedly free citizens.

By: treehugger7 on 6/27/11 at 6:29

It's only going to get worse unless people let him know that this is totally unacceptable. Women still have to fight for their rights, altho they shouldn't have to any more. We have been fighting since the sixties for the right to reproductive freedom. Enough already!! Haslam will be a one term governor, if we can't run him out sooner. Let's look into his business deallings a little deeper while we are at it. Don't put up with this crap. Tennesseans are better and smarter than this. We have run governors out of office before, and it is time to do it again! Then we can start with the "legislature". I expect a few of them have skeletons in the closet as well.

By: HokeyPokey on 6/27/11 at 6:32

I suppose if you walk around with your fingers in your ears singing "Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam" at the top of your lungs you won't hear what people are telling you.

On the other hand, maybe somebody might slip this news under the gubner's nose: This little ploy is failing in Indiana:


By: treehugger7 on 6/27/11 at 6:43

They are smarter up north!

By: budlight on 6/27/11 at 6:57

Treehugger7, if they are "smarter up north" why do so many yankees move to the south to start with? Did they lose their minds or what?

Also, if Planned Parenthood needs money and they are a non-profit agency, why not do fundraisers like so many other non-profits have to do? Or why don't all the abortion rights advocates just do an automatic deposit into the Planned Parenthood bank account? I mean, after all, they do "support" abortion, so why not support the non-profit agency that advocates for abortion?

Planned Parenthood was started by a woman who is a racist. "Margaret Sanger
Founder of Planned Parenthood In Her Own Words "The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it." Margaret Sanger, Women and the New Race (Eugenics Publ. Co., 1920, 1923)"

So you people who don't like racism, need to "READ" a book about Sanger and get yourselves educated on the original reason she started her ploy to kill babies from and "large family". Answer one question: What families traditionally had large numbers of children they could not feed? Margaret thought she had hit on something. Now you all want people who do not believe in abortion to fund her dreams of killing off those people.

By: budlight on 6/27/11 at 7:01

The Negro Project
Margaret Sanger's Eugenic Plan for Black Americans
By Tanya L. Green
posted at Concerned Women of America

Further proof that Sanger and Planned Parenthood was started as a racist movement:
"May 10, 2001 “... I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”
—Deuteronomy 30:19 (NKJV)
On the crisp, sunny, fall Columbus Day in 1999, organizers of the “Say So” march approached the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. The marchers, who were predominantly black pastors and lay persons, concluded their three-day protest at the site of two monumental cases: the school desegregation Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and the pro-abortion Roe v. Wade (1973). The significance of each case—equal rights for all Americans in the former, and abortion “rights” in the latter—converged in the declaration of Rev. Johnny M. Hunter, the march's sponsor and national director of Life, Education and Resource Network (LEARN), the largest black pro-life organization. "

Read, do some research on Sanger and her cronies. Then come back and tell me you support her. I don't.

By: mariebarbara on 6/27/11 at 7:05

I see Jeff Woods has embraced the talking point of PP. These services belong with the county health depts. Amazing that all counties can do it now except for Shelby. Davidson is worried that they cannot do it?! Really???
If PP is so concerned about the welfare of women, they can continue to use their contributions from their supporters to do it. Davidson and Shelby counties received a cool 1.1MM each yr. from tax money handed to them in a sweetheart deal. Gosh maybe Chase can drop a little in the contribution bucket from his 120K+ annual comp. I find it interesting that the people that believe so strongly in the benevolent nature of Planned Parenthood want to support them with tax dollars and not their own contributions. As former PP clinic director and PP ee of the yr. said PP relies upon that money to help pay the salaries, benefits, utilities, rent etc. of the same ees that do abortions for an ave. cost of 450/ea. They rely upon those tax payer services to increase foot traffic. Many returning for abortions report that they were using bc.

By: budlight on 6/27/11 at 7:10

"I find it interesting that the people that believe so strongly in the benevolent nature of Planned Parenthood want to support them with tax dollars and not their own contributions." said by mariebarbara

Yes, mariebarbara, let those supporters fund it. Do not co-mingle tax dollars of people who are opposed to abortion. It is morally wrong.

By: budlight on 6/27/11 at 7:11

By the way, when women get pregnant and tell me they were "on the pill" I just say well you should have "taken" the pill according to the prescription directions. Just being "on" it does not mean you are taking it correctly. Doesn't it work 99% of the time?

By: HokeyPokey on 6/27/11 at 7:51

@budlight the yankees moved down here because we're easy pickin's.

You, in this forum, have presented no evidence to the contrary.

Your ignorance is amply defined by your statement about the supposed lack of fundraising for Planned Parenthood:


By: HokeyPokey on 6/27/11 at 7:53

@budlight is that a long line or a short line of women who tell you they were "on the pill?"

In either case, it's a line.


By: Kosh III on 6/27/11 at 8:20

"Yes, mariebarbara, let those supporters fund it. Do not co-mingle tax dollars of people who are opposed to abortion. It is morally wrong."

Give me back my tax money that goes to welfare for rich corporations or to fund the various wars that Bush started. War is immoral even when it enriches the corporate masters of the GOP.

By: Kosh III on 6/27/11 at 8:23

"Planned Parenthood was started by a woman who is a racist. "Margaret Sanger..."

So what? Andrew Jackson was racist AND committed genocide, which Sanger did not.

Ronald Reagan, the saint of the GOP committed divorce AND adultery. Funny how the party of "family values" always overlooks that even while screaming to compel the rest of us to accept the Decalogue.

By: Nitzche on 6/27/11 at 8:36

Ned, us!

By: mariebarbara on 6/27/11 at 8:47

Wow per WSJ pays for tweets and retweets....maybe they can divert this $$ to pay for cancer screening. Seems like they pay a lot for advertising and fund raising. Why don't they run it like other non profits.

By: not_guilty on 6/27/11 at 9:00

Damn, I miss Ned McWherter.

By: HokeyPokey on 6/27/11 at 9:51

@mariebarbara did you look any deeper into the claim you just repeated before posting it here?


By: budlight on 6/27/11 at 10:11

HokeyPokey on 6/27/11 at 8:51
@budlight the yankees moved down here because we're easy pickin's.

Don't you yankees have any smarts? If so, why not stay up north where ya'll are more comfortable and you're surrounded by smart people. I mean, why come to the dumb south? I'd say it's because you feel that southerners are "easy pickin's" and ya'll want to get rich quick.

I can't tell you how many fly by night roofers and remodel experts I've met from the north who can't tell a plumb line from a coke line! Or who don't know what "codes" means. They think it's some type of military communication vs. Codes for building specifications.

By: DrHef on 6/27/11 at 10:42

If anyone took a look at how all of these other services (healthcare and screenings) were paid for, you would know that they are all paid under medicaid (or tenncare). Guess what? They still have tenncare to pay for these services. Planned parenthood does not dole out money from their accounts to pay for those services.

By: Moonglow1 on 6/28/11 at 5:56

Moonglow1: this governor is a pawn of the American Legislative Executive Council funded & founded by corporate interests with origins in the Nixon administration. The ALEC provides the Tea with model legislative templates to further their anti American anti labor agenda. This has nothing to do with abortion and everything to do with killing off the poor & reducing American wages so that Americans will work to death to make the wealthy wealthier. The only beacon of hope lies in exposure. For example, the former Nashville crook and now the governor in Florida Rick Scott is the most hated governor in the USA. The only reason Haslam is not far behind is that he sneaks around and is just plain dumb. Shine the light on his true tea nut philosophy and boycott Pilots. You do know we really can change the world and turn the tide. How? Stop buying corporate junk. Walk don't drive so much. Don't buy from corporate farms. Haslam is a right wing extremist tea nut and does not care about Tennessee. He is totally purchased by the national ALEC agenda. Take away: the ALEC agenda and thus Haslam is not good for TN. Haslam is against Tennessee and its people especially the poor and the middle class.

By: Moonglow1 on 6/28/11 at 6:08

Moonglow1: hey Bud Light-Why do you believe that our tax dollars should pay for two wars started by Bush to grab more oil. Planned Parenthood is small time in comparison to the BILLIONS of my tax dollars that went directly to Halliburton & Blackwater to line their pockets. Small business does not profit from these wars. But multinational corporations profit by lining their pockets with our tax dollars. Get a grip. Ya think these Teas care about wasting tax money when it comes to lining their pockets. They want the idiots to believe they care about abortion. Right laughing all the way to the bank.

By: govskeptic on 6/28/11 at 7:34

Just the responses by the first 5 postings one would expect from the
liberal- GOP and Bible Haters that we hear from frequently! Planned
Parenthood uses much of these funds for salaries, office space, and
literature publications, and yet always makes an attempt to charge
those receiving these abortions just as much as they can squeeze
out of them for these operations no matter their economic status!

By: treehugger7 on 6/28/11 at 7:35

You know, this governor makes me yearn for the Blanton days! At least he was inefffective in addition to being a crook. He also provided more entertainment....I had just moved here for grad school. The first newscast I saw showed the guv shoving a woman down the stairs in the capital. He didn't last long after that. Make Haslam a one termer--or less!

By: chino on 6/28/11 at 9:23

'Pro lifers' should be called 'pro birthers'. They could care less what happens to you once you are born. After that you are completely on your own despite the hand that has been dealt to you in life.

By: treehugger7 on 6/28/11 at 10:25

Amen, chino!

By: not_guilty on 6/28/11 at 1:26

Misogyny now! Misogyny tomorrow! MISOGYNY FOREVER!!!

I understand opposition to abortion rights and at least part of what motivates that opposition. I cannot understand why many of those who oppose abortion also oppose other people's use of contraceptives, which prevents abortions.

Well, all right--I do understand that some folks follow what the-man-in-the-pointy-hat says without questioning the wisdom of such pronouncements. I just can't understand why anyone would regard the RoCaMBLA as a reliable source of moral authority