Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Tennessee Weighs In On Shelby County's Delay of Free Condom Funding

Posted By on Wed, Feb 1, 2017 at 12:59 PM

click to enlarge Planned Parenthood supporters showed up to the Shelby County Commission meeting to voice their disapproval of the delay of funding for free condoms. - MICAELA WATTS
  • Micaela Watts
  • Planned Parenthood supporters showed up to the Shelby County Commission meeting to voice their disapproval of the delay of funding for free condoms.

The state of Tennessee has advised the Shelby County Commission that they stand to lose $407,000 in federal grants for HIV prevention if they do not approve the $115,000 amount allotted for Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region's (PPGMR) free condom distribution program.

Shelby County Commissioner Mark Billingsley made the letter from the state public during the commissioner's meeting earlier today during a portion of the meeting reserved for public comment. The discussion regarding the funding earmarked for PPGMR did not appear on the agenda, and subsequently failed to get a two-thirds majority vote needed in order to add the item.

After protest from the dozens of Planned Parenthood supporters present, speakers representing several health organizations who had signed up to speak at the meeting were allowed to make their remarks.

PPGMR's CEO, Ashley Coffield, chose to address a previously undiscussed matter that she believes is at the heart of the delay.

"I know we have disagreements about abortion rights, but there is a time and a place for those discussions," said Coffield, who also urged the commissioners "not to play politics with public health".

Former president of the National Civil Rights Museum, Beverly Robinson, echoed similar statements.

"We know this works," said Robinson. "We are trying to fix something that isn't broken."

The vote to approve the earmarked funds has been delayed since mid-January, in what Coffield has previously described as a power play to garner "cheap political points".

The commissioners are not set to vote on the federal funding for the free condom program on Monday, knowing that a failure to approve the funding could result in a loss of the full $407,000 in federal funding designated for HIV prevention services.

Three other health organizations — Friends For Life, Partnership to End Aids, and Le Bonheur Community Health and Well Being — secured their HIV prevention funds with unanimous approval from the commissioners.

Commissioner Heidi Shafer, who previously said that she would be eyeing the free condom funding, left the room during the public comments.

Commissioner Terry Roland, who weighed in on the measure with a since deleted tweet voicing his disapproval of PPGMR punctuated by the hashtag "babykillers", spoke only towards the end of the discussion. 
click to enlarge terrytweet.png

"I might not agree with you, but you do have a right to come in front of me and speak. I do care about what you think, and I am willing to listen," said Roland.

Some of the commissioners, including Commissioner Van Turner urged the supporters to come back on Monday, and maybe even bring a friend or two.

"I voted for this today, and I will be voting for this again on Monday."

The latest data available from the Center of Disease Control shows that Memphis has the highest rates of STD's, including HIV, in the state of Tennessee.

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