In a scathing letter to Orange County officials, Planned Parenthood accused them of having "gerrymandered" the process for doling out health grants and having imposed obstacles to prevent it from running a breast-health program.
"The county placed obstacle after obstacle in Planned Parenthood's path, ultimately making it impossible to implement" the program, wrote Jon Dunn, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood for Orange and San Bernardino counties, in the letter sent this week to the Board of Supervisors and the county Health Care Agency.
Planned Parenthood and 17 other community clinics have received tobacco settlement revenue from the county for the last eight years. In March, the Board of Supervisors suspended Planned Parenthood's contract after a constituent of Supervisor John Moorlach pointed out that taxpayer money was going to a group that performs abortions.
Though the contract was reinstated, new restrictions were put in place to ensure that clinics receiving the next round of grants provided "direct medical" services and that money did not pay for abortion services. The group, which was using the money for health education, has said it does not fund abortion services with tobacco settlement money.
To meet the guidelines, Planned Parenthood formulated the Breast Health Program to reach lower-income women under 40, who are at a higher risk for breast cancer.
The county initially rejected the program, and about two months of rocky talks ensued. The new contract fell apart last week when the organization failed to meet the 23-hour deadline imposed by the Health Care Agency to agree to the terms, the letter states.
But Dunn wrote that the "real reason" for all the obstacles and refusal to negotiate is that Planned Parenthood offers abortion services.
"We negotiated for a long period of time in good faith," Dunn said. "We really tried hard to comply with all of the obstacles and barriers they put in our way."
Moorlach said supervisors had not been involved in the negotiations, adding: "I believe the staff of the Health Care Agency was more than cooperative, and Planned Parenthood failed to meet the deadline."
The Health Care Agency issued a statement Thursday saying it had "worked in good faith" to reach an agreement. "Planned Parenthood chose not to sign and return their agreement by the deadline date. As a result, the Health Care Agency will not be approving . . . funding." Agency Director David Riley was not available for comment.
The letter alleges that the county refused to fund the program at reasonable rates, held the organization to different accounting standards than other clinics and "refused to negotiate and imposed an unworkable deadline."
Dunn said the organization was considering its legal options, but would not go before supervisors again.
"You have eliminated critical health education programs, created barriers to critically needed care," Dunn wrote. "You will be held accountable for your reckless and irresponsible actions."