It takes two to do the Title X tango.
Or so suggests Planned Parenthood of Greater Memphis' recent move to bypass the state and procure Title X funding directly from the federal government.
The family planning organization has been awarded a $395,000 federal grant, which will help offset what they lost in a drawn-out bid process for Title X funding last year. According to federal law, no Title X funds can be used for abortion services. Instead, the funding will go toward annual exams, pap smears, birth control, breast exams, and family planning for women in the Mid-South.
While the grant amount is only half of what Planned Parenthood of Greater Memphis applied for and only half of the amount they were denied in the 2011 Title X bid process, CEO Barry Chase still considers this a victory.
"This is a victory for women and teens in Shelby County, because they can now receive health care and family planning whether they can afford it or not and without a sermon," Chase said. "This allows them to receive the unbiased, fully representative health care they have been without since last summer."
Chase's "sermon" reference alludes to Christ Community Health Services, the current recipient of a Title X funding subcontract from the Shelby County Health Department. The knock-down, drag-out battle for Title X funds began in April 2011, when an amendment to the state law required that Title X funding be apportioned directly to county health departments across the state, instead of subcontracted to organizations like Planned Parenthood.
The Shelby County Health Department, which first rejected the funds, citing inadequate resources and planning time, accepted the funding on the condition that they could subcontract the family planning services out to a local health organization. In issuing a request for proposals, the health department effectively pitted Planned Parenthood, the longtime recipient of Title X funding, against Christ Community Health Services, the inevitable recipient of the funding.
Chase said Planned Parenthood of Greater Memphis has definitely suffered since the loss of Title X funding last year.
"We're just not seeing the same number of women because many of them can't afford it," he said. "I think there have been a lot of women in the past six months or so who've gone without birth control and have gone without the kind of health care and advice they need."
Planned Parenthood's move to bypass state government is not wholly unusual, said Chase.
"We are not the first Planned Parenthood to go directly to the federal government," Chase said. "There are other Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country that contract directly with the federal government and have been doing so for some time in order to provide these services."
Chase said Planned Parenthood of Greater Memphis will likely continue applying for funding directly from the federal government in the future.