As anticipated, the Orange County Board of Supervisors today cut about $300,000 in Planned Parenthood health education funding by canceling the nonprofit's contract through the Coalition of Orange County Community Clinics. Each Supe cited a moral objection to Orange-based Planned Parenthood providing abortions, even though the funds were not used for that.
Chairman John Moorlach telegraphed his punch, having sent out an email blast to constituents after his problems with the funding appeared in the Orange County Register. "Not to generalize, but when you contact a law firm that specializes in bankruptcies, they most likely will advise you to file for bankruptcy," Moorlach wrote in the email. "If you go to Planned Parenthood, they are most likely to recommend their specialized surgical solution, which they provide and are compensated for, which appears to be a conflict of interest."
The funds come from tobacco settlement revenue that county voters, when they voted for Measure H, directed go toward health services. Moorlach said he would prefer such funds go to a community clinic that can treat anyone who enters its doors rather than "a specialty care concern" that caters to teens being educated about sexually transmitted disease, birth control and abortion.
The legality of the board's decision, including whether they should be voting on behalf of their constituents and the county's public health interests or out of their own moral and religious ideologies, is now being explored, says Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Kimiko Martinez.
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Her colleague, Stephanie Kight, earlier reacted to Moorlach's stand by reiterating county funds were not used for abortion services and her organization's outreach and education efforts prevent unintended pregnancies that often lead to abortions. As for the "specialty care concern," Kight cited figures that show one in three Orange County women have used Planned Parenthood services at least once in their life.
Martinez said pregnancy termination is "less than 10 percent of what our organization does," pointing to an annual report that shows the vast majority of services include well-woman exams, cancer screenings, prenatal care, contraception and education. "Last year alone we saw nearly 60,000 community members in our health centers -- more than 39,000 for our health education programs," she said.
That's important because the teen birth rate has gone up for the first time in more than 15 years, and recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports show that 1 in 4 teens has an STD.
Other members of the Coalition of Orange County Community Clinics provide the same services Planned Parenthood provided with the county funds, Martinez said.