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Orange County board votes to suspend Planned Parenthood contract

March 11, 2009|Tami Abdollah
  • Supervisor John Moorlach placed the item about the contract on the board?s agenda.
Supervisor John Moorlach placed the item about the contract on the board?s… (Mark Boster, Los Angeles…)

Saying they could not abide funding an organization that performs abortions, Orange County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to suspend a contract with Planned Parenthood to provide health education for thousands of teens and preteens.

"I personally have a problem with government funding of an organization that provides abortion services," said Supervisor John Moorlach, who placed the item on the agenda.

The decision to suspend the $291,788 education grant came after nearly two hours of impassioned public and Board of Supervisors discussion. The curriculum includes information about anatomy, physiology and seven kinds of birth control -- including abstinence -- as well as about sexually transmitted diseases.

None of the money is used to fund abortions, said Jon Dunn, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood for Orange and San Bernardino counties.

"It's clear to me that the agenda of Supervisor Moorlach, and the other supervisors' willingness to go along with him, are driven more by a religious ideology than an articulate health policy that benefits the people of Orange County," Dunn said.

According to state data, Santa Ana and Anaheim have pregnancy rates that are among the highest in the state, said Planned Parenthood's Stephanie Kight.

"If you eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, this will surely result in more unintentional pregnancies and more abortions in Orange County," Dunn told the board.

Many of the supervisors spoke of their religious and moral views while discussing the contract.

Moorlach brought up the issue in a meeting last month when he said he was surprised that Planned Parenthood was receiving county money. He said staff had not fully disclosed the 18 clinics that would be receiving money before supervisors voted on the contract.

On Tuesday, the board discussed two Planned Parenthood contracts: one for $50,000 that pays for collecting and entering child immunization data into the county's registry, and the larger one for health education. The immunization data contract was allowed to continue.

"When Orange County funds something, it's like putting the Good Housekeeping seal of approval on that organization," said Supervisor Bill Campbell. "Funding an organization that provides abortions is not something I'd like to do."

The health education contract was approved last year through a $7.5-million agreement with the Orange County Coalition of Community Clinics and funded through tobacco settlement revenue.

As part of the contract, both parties must give 30 days' notice before they can terminate the agreement.

The Board of Supervisors requested that the county counsel examine possible legal ramifications of terminating the contract and report back within two weeks.

Board Chairwoman Pat Bates warned her colleagues that they could be wandering into the realm of "abuse of discretion." She noted that many hospitals funded by the county also perform abortions.

"I am without a doubt a solid platinum pro-lifer," Bates said. "But our job is clearly focused on what money here's spent on, and we can craft that, but we can't take a blanket role on these issues, or go line by line. We need to be very, very comfortable that we're not exercising some abuse of discretion. . . . We need some overall policy. It can't be arbitrary, and it must reflect equity across the board."

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tami.abdollah@latimes.com

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