NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CN) - Planned Parenthood claims Tennessee killed nearly $150,000 in funding for venereal disease prevention programs to punish it for its "association with" and "advocacy for access to abortion services."
Planned Parenthood claims that the state senator who pushed the cuts through, Stacey Campfield, gloated about it by saying: "We had to kiss a lot of ugly girls at the prom, but we took the pretty one home ... [W]e got what I was looking for, which was defunding Planned Parenthood."
Planned Parenthood of Greater Memphis and of Middle and East Tennessee sued Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, in Federal Court.
Planned Parenthood claims Tennessee's unconstitutional retaliation "will imminently and irreparably harm plaintiffs and thousands of Tennessee women, men and teens who rely on them for education and testing to prevent contracting and transmitting life-threatening HIV and syphilis infections."
The plaintiffs provide reproductive health services and have participated in HIV-prevention programs funded by the Centers for Disease Control for more than a decade, according to the complaint. Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region was selected to receive federal funding for Tennessee's syphilis elimination program in 2011 and 2012.
"Despite having a proven track record in these programs and having been selected to receive these funds for the 2012 calendar year through a competitive bidding process, plaintiffs were informed approximately one month ago that TDOH [Tennessee Department of Health] was 'unable to approve' them for this funding," the complaint states.
"On information and belief, plaintiffs are the only service providers selected to participate in these programs that were not approved; TDOH took this action without actually substantively reviewing plaintiffs' or any other grant proposals; and TDOH's decision was motivated solely by animus toward their constitutionally protected, privately funded activities - specifically, that plaintiffs provide, associate with, and/or advocate for access to abortion, even though plaintiffs conduct these activities outside of any state or federal program. Moreover, the defendant has impermissibly singled out plaintiffs among similarly situated service providers for disparate treatment."
Planned Parenthood says its sexually transmitted disease-prevention programs get federal funding, but the state has final approval over all grants.
"PPGMR has historically been one of eight grantees for the Southwest Tennessee region and has been awarded HIV prevention funding for more than ten consecutive years," the complaint states. "These grant funds have been used to provide group- and individual-level education and counseling, HIV testing, and professional development for local community-based organizations, such as peer educator training for high school and college students. In 2011, PPGMR received $70,000 in CDC-funded HIV prevention funds. With those funds, it tested more than 3,800 individuals for HIV at five locations, offering business- and after-hours services. The same year, it provided HIV prevention services at thirteen locations to nearly 8,000 individuals, and offered professional development at fifteen locations.
"Between 2007 and 2011, PPGMR was evaluated at least four times during site visits by officials from TDOH with respect to its participation in the HIV prevention program. In follow-up letters sent after these visits, TDOH officials stated that they did not have any formal recommendations for improvement. Following a June 2011 site visit, TDOH's HIV Prevention Testing Program director commended PPGMR's 'dedication to HIV prevention and the community' and stated that he 'look[ed] forward to working with Planned Parenthood in the future.'