Planned Parenthood, Religious Group Vie for Title X Contract in Tenn.

September 26, 2011 — The Shelby County Commission in Tennessee on Wednesday voted 6-4, along party lines, to defer for three weeks a decision on whether Christ Community Health Services will be awarded a federal Title X family planning contract, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports.

Democrats on the panel supported the delay, which they hope will give Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region more time to argue that it should receive the funding instead.

In the past, the state has divided the Memphis share of Tennessee's Title X money between PPGMR and the county health department. However, under a new state policy, the state began awarding money only to county health departments, according to Harvey Kennedy, Shelby County's chief administrative officer. The Republican-backed policy change was designed to cut off government funding to Planned Parenthood because the organization offers abortion services. By law, none of the government money can be used for abortion care.

The policy change caused the amount of grant money available to the county to increase from $560,000 to more than $1.3 million, and county officials sought a partner to handle some of the services. Kennedy said Christ Community Health Services outscored PPGMR and the Memphis Health Center in an evaluation process.

Barry Chase, president and CEO of PPGMR, said the process was unfair. "We just learned what the standards were for comparing the proposals this morning," Chase said on Wednesday. The organization argues that it is better equipped than Christ Community to handle family planning in the county and that it will provide care in an "unbiased, accurate, nonjudgmental, nonreligious" way.

Christ Community CEO Burt Waller said the organization is nondenominational and already offers family planning services. The organization does not refer patients to abortion providers, according to founding physician Rick Donlon (Connolly, Memphis Commercial Appeal, 9/22).