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VOL. 132 | NO. 23 | Wednesday, February 1, 2017

State Says County Must Fund Planned Parenthood Condom Contract

By Bill Dries

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The Tennessee Department of Health says Shelby County government is required to fund a grant to Planned Parenthood for the distribution of free condoms as part of larger effort to combat the spread of the HIV virus.

The Jan. 27 letter from state health department’s HIV prevention director, Melissa Morrison, surfaced Wednesday, Feb. 1, during Shelby County Commission committee sessions.

The commission delayed a vote on a $115,000 grant last year after commissioner David Reaves was incorrectly listed as a sponsor of the measure. Reaves is opposed to the funding.

But commissioner Walter Bailey plans to add the grant to Monday’s commission agenda. And the state’s position will be a factor in what is expected to be a protracted debate over the funding.

The commission has approved other grants to other agencies for the condom distribution, which is a pass-through of state funding. But some commissioners object to any funding for Planned Parenthood because of the abortion services it provides.

The grant at issue does not involve abortions.

Morrison’s letter to the county’s administrator of HIV prevention services, known as the Memphis Ryan White Program, says Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region was among the local agencies who applied in November for the program and their proposal was among those accepted in December by the county’s Division of Community Services..

“This failure to act is in direct violation of the obligation … of your grant contract, which provides that the grantee shall execute contracts with successful proposers at approved award amounts,” Morrison wrote. “Not only does this failure to complete the execution of a contract violate your contractual obligations to TDH (Tennessee Department of Health), we have reason to believe it may be motivated by matters unrelated to the ability of the proposed subgrantee to meet its obligations under the subgrant.”

Morrison also cited a federal court order that “expressly prohibits such extraneous considerations in conjunction with the provision of these services.”

Local Planned Parenthood director Ashley Coffield said the agency has had a contract for the condom distribution since 2013 and has continued doing so even though the commission has not approved the latest grant contract.

After Wednesday’s committee session, Coffield said if the contract isn’t approved Monday, Planned Parenthood will file a federal lawsuit over the commission’s refusal.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 0 131 1,047
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 20 39 190
BUILDING PERMITS 0 305 3,056
BANKRUPTCIES 17 135 753
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 53 329
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0