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The Hospital and Health committee of the Shelby County Commission voted 5-5 Wednesday on the issue of approving a contract with Christ Community Health Center to use Title X federal funds for women's health care and family planning.
The tie vote, which may or may not be resolved when the full Commission meets in its regular public meeting on Monday, followed an extended debate before an audienced packed with supporters of both CCHC and Planned Parenthood, the agency which had traditionally had contracted for Title X services with the state.
This year, as a result of legislation in the 2011 General Assembly, the contract is being let by the county, not the state.
Commissioner Walter Bailey, a Democrat, voted with four Republicans to approve the contract. Otherwise, the vote was along party lines. Democeat Henri Brooks was typical of the resisters, As she put it: "I'm concerned about the hypothesis of the situation that brings us here. It's purely political. There's no precedent for this."
She and other Democrats, notably Commissioner Steve Mulroy, had challenged the CCHC contract on other grounds, including lack of experience relative to Planned Parenthood. But they emphasized the politics of the situation, stemming, as they saw it, from the decision of a Republican-dominated state government to freeze out Planned Parenthood from public contracts.
Although Planned Parenthood performs abortions — the basis for much of the GOP animus — the Title X funds would not be used for that purpose.
At least one proponent of the CCHC contract, Republican Chris Thomas, made a point of declaring his opposition to abortion, but he and others emphazsized that Christ Community Health Center had been selected, as Health Department director Yvonne Madlock and county CAO Harvey Kennedy had testified, on the merits of their response to a county RFP (request for proposal).
Commissioner Terry Roland, another Republican, did make a point of noting that Governor Bill Haslam and other state goverment figures were probably observing the proceedings online.
Among those making the case for their respective agencies were Burt Waller, CEO of CCHC, and Barry Chase, local director of Planned Parenthood.
More details to come. Also see coverage by Hannah Sayle in Flyer News Blog.