Tennessee refuses federal money for HIV testing because Planned Parenthood would get part of it

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (right)

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (right)

Tennessee health officials tried to exclude Planned Parenthood from an HIV testing and treatment grant program before deciding to withhold federal funds altogether, according to The Associated Press and Memphis. Sales call.

NBC News reported that the state could reject up to $10 million in HIV funding. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention distributes the money to states, which in turn give it to local organizations that provide services. Tennessee says it will use state funds starting June 1, but it’s unclear how the state plans to pay for the program on its own.

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Abortion is already banned in the state, so this appears to be nothing more than an attempt to financially stifle Planned Parenthood while leaving those at risk of HIV and those living with the virus as collateral damage.

Democratic Senator London Lamar of Memphis told the AP that refusing the money “endangers the lives of the people of Tennessee.” The attorneys told NBC News the decision was devastating. “I don’t understand why the state would return funds to health care…it’s outrageous,” said Diane Duke, president and CEO of Friends for Life, a Memphis-based group that provides services to people living with HIV.

The public health agency also removed Planned Parenthood’s name from a list on its website of community organizations that provide free condoms. (Planned Parenthood operates Free Condoms TN, which is still listed.)

When the AP asked the Department of Health why it tried to remove Planned Parenthood from the program in November, a spokesperson instead provided a Jan. 17 letter explaining that “previous administrations” had accepted federal money, but the state has determined “it is in the best interest of Tennesseans for the state to assume direct financial and managerial responsibility for these services.”

Governor Bill Lee (right) told reporters on Friday, “Funding for this HIV prevention program is very important and it is important that it be spent effectively and efficiently in a way that best serves Tennessee . We believe that we can do this better than the conditions attached to the federal dollars that have come to us and that is why we made this decision. Uh-huh.

Ashley Coffield, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, was clear-headed about the motives. “This is yet another Governor Lee-made public health crisis,” she told the AP. “They are using Planned Parenthood as a gateway to dismantling the entire sexual and reproductive health care system. We are often the most public target, but it affects so many groups. »

Planned Parenthood has worked with the state to provide HIV testing since 2008 under Governor Phil Bredesen (D). When Governor Bill Haslam (R) was elected in 2012, his administration attempted to drive the organization out of the program and was sued and lost. The AP explains:

A district court later found that the department had targeted Planned Parenthood “based on their First Amendment activity to advocate abortion” and issued a permanent injunction preventing the state from dissolving any partnership with the organization. because of their advocacy for abortion care. This injunction is still in place.

Why is this happening now? Perhaps because the new state health commissioner started work last week. Lee named Ralph Alvarado, a former Kentucky lawmaker who is anti-abortion, to the role. Alvarado started last Monday, two days before the change was announced.

The petty move recalls when anti-abortion lawmakers in Indiana attacked various sources of funding for Planned Parenthood, leading to the closure of several of its clinics. A closed clinic in rural Scott County, Indiana was the county’s only HIV testing center, and two years later the county experienced a devastating HIV epidemic.

You’d think a governor wouldn’t want to repeat those mistakes, but he’s a Republican, so he doesn’t care if people get sick or die.

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