Tennessee County gives family planning grant to religious group that opposes family planning

After weeks of deliberation, the Shelby County Commission in Tennessee has voted 9-4 to strip the local Planned Parenthood of funding and give the county’s family planning grant to Christ Community Health Services instead.

Christ Community Health Services supposedly outscored Planned Parenthood in the evaluation process. Which is odd considering the religious organization refuses to provide some pretty basic family planning services. Since they object to emergency contraception on religious grounds, they will refer such requests to a third-party. They will not refer patients to abortion providers at all. But since it’s a requirement of receiving Title X family planning funding, they will acknowledge that abortion is an option.

Of course, what they’ll actually say about abortion is anyone’s bet. Somehow I don’t think it will be particularly unbiased. One supporter of Planned Parenthood spoke at the meeting about her experience at Christ Community:

One of those was 24-year-old Mary Phillips, who said she’d gone to both Christ Community and Planned Parenthood — she held up a peach-colored plastic box that held birth control pills that she’d received from Planned Parenthood. She said Christ Community provides high-quality medical services, but that they sometimes come with a “sermon.”

She said that she had once been told: “If only my relationships with people and God were right, I would have fewer health problems.”

Right. Because even the appearance of “government-funded abortion” must be avoided at all costs. But actual government-funded proselytizing? Totally fine.

So now Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region will have to start charging patients for birth control. And, as Misty said at Shakesville, low-income women in Memphis will be forced to “be a captive audience to a religious organization” in order to get the “necessary, needed medical care they deserve.”

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

Read more about Maya

Join the Conversation