Planned Parenthood, ACLU respond to commissioners' vote

Published: Mar. 12, 2012 at 7:48 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 17, 2012 at 7:55 PM EDT
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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – New Hanover County Commissioners voted not to accept a $9,000 grant to help pay for family planning at the Health Department.

During the Board's meeting on Monday afternoon, Commissioner Rick Catlin said people aren't using contraceptives responsibly.  As the commission's representative on the board, he opposed accepting the money.  Commissioners voted unanimously not to accept it.

New Hanover County was one of 58 other counties that would have received funding to supplement family planning funds.   The funding was a one-time bonus based on performance and increase in case loads.  The health department was planning on using these funds for IUDs, which stands for intrauterine device.  It's a form of birth control where a device is placed in the uterus to prevent pregnancy.

The health department was not bound to spend that money on the IUDs.

The vote caused enough controversy that at least one commissioner is backtracking.

Commissioner and Democrat Jonathan Barfield says he now regrets his vote and that the commissioners should have taken the grant money.  On his Facebook page, Barfield wrote:

"I'm getting a good lesson from my wife right this minute on the error of my vote," he posted around 7:30 p.m.

"I just interviewed with WECT as I cited the error of my vote. I don't have the right to choose for any woman. If you watch the tape of the meeting you'll get a better sense of the discussion. Bottom line we should have accepted the money," he posted around 8:15 p.m.

Representative Susi Hamilton, also a Democrat, is also using social media to share her dislike of the vote.  "It sounds to me that Ted Davis and Rick Catlin think that women get pregnant all by themselves," she posted around 5:30 p.m. Monday.

"Family planning affects families, not just women," said Hamilton in an interview Monday night.

Tuesday, Planned Parenthood officials responded to the decision with the following statement:

"Planned Parenthood Health Systems (PPHS) denounces the all-male New Hanover Board of Commissioners' unanimous decision to reject a state family planning grant that covers the cost of birth control and other family planning services.

In a board meeting yesterday, Chairman Ted Davis said he disagreed with accepting grant funding for contraceptive services, because it would provide assistance for women making the decision to prevent unintended pregnancy with the use of birth control.

Suzanne Wertman, Certified Nurse Midwife, at PPHS in Wilmington states: 'I reject the notion that women who seek family planning services are anything but mindful, responsible individuals who deserve affordable, high-quality care for themselves and their families. We know that 99% of women in this country use birth control at some point in her life. The average woman spends 5 years trying to get pregnant or being pregnant and thirty years trying to prevent pregnancy. This commission of five men is ridiculously out of touch with women's health issues. A woman deserves the respect to make reproductive health choices for herself.'

PPHS is publically calling on the New Hanover Board of Commissioners to immediately explain their views, which appear grossly out of touch with women, or to apologize and commit to an agenda item at the next board meeting to take a new vote on this grant for family planning services."

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina also released a statement, critizing the decision for crippling women's rights.

Jennifer Rudinger, executive director of the ACLU, said the following: 

"It is truly shameful that the New Hanover County commissioners refused nearly $9,000 in state funds that could have provided essential reproductive health care services to women through doctors' visits, medication, and comprehensive family planning. Most American women use contraception at some point in our lives in order to plan responsibly, and for many of us, contraception can also aid with other medical conditions. Unfortunately, many low-income women and young women do not have reliable access to contraception. The state funds the County rejected could have provided these women with medical care they cannot otherwise afford or access.  The state offered this money to the County without any strings attached and without any increased burden on taxpayers. The commissioners' decision to reject this funding is appalling.

"Had the five men on the Board bothered to consult any women or reproductive health experts beforehand, perhaps they would have seen the error of their ways. Indeed, Commissioner Jonathan Barfield told WECT-TV that after talking to his wife about the issue, he realized he was wrong to vote against accepting the funds. It is not the duty of elected officials to judge anyone's lifestyle or medical needs. Rather, they should seek to better the welfare of the people they were elected to serve. In this case, they failed miserably," Rudinger concluded.

Copyright 2012 WECT. All rights reserved.