MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com)- Shelby County Commissioners are at odds over federal money for family planning.
In a six to four party-line vote Wednesday, September 21, 2011, the commission decided to postpone giving Christ Community Health Center a $400,000 contract. Christ Community won that contract after an evaluation process. Planned Parenthood was second.
Democratic commissioners complained that the evaluation process was skewed and was really about Planned Parenthood providing abortions while Christ Community does not. Republicans say Christ Community has the best health care services overall and should get the money.
A committee of six people from the Luttrell administration evaluated proposals from three health providers for federal money from the Title X Family Planning Grants.
“Planned Parenthood didn't like that they came in second and they were not going to keep this contract, so they filed a protest and complained that the process wasn't right. But it's because they lost," says republican Shelby County Commissioner Chris Thomas. “To me, we have a process in place. It was put in place and there's nothing wrong with the process."
Shelby County Commissioner Chairman Sidney Chism, a democrat, disagrees.
"How did they come up with the process? Was the grading arbitrary? Was it fair and just?" wonders Chism.
Commissioner Chism says there are those on the elected body who stand strongly for and against abortion. He's pro-choice.
"I have four girls and two granddaughters," he tells abc24.com. "I don’t want anybody telling them what they can or cannot do when it comes to their body."
He says the evaluation process was influenced by pro-life supporters. Chism wants Planned Parenthood to have a second chance for the contract.
"If the process was fair and just, whoever was awarded the contract should get it," he says. "If it's not fair or just, then I want to make sure everyone has an equal chance to provide those services that the public needs."
Commissioner Thomas says it's not about who provides abortion services. He believes Christ Community is a better option.
"People are just making it political," he says. "We just need to stick with the process. It's frustrating when the process is there, it's followed, and because someone loses, they're trying to get some sympathizers to try to get it changed on their behalf."
Planned Parenthood has the contract and the money until October 1st. The vote on Wednesday, September 21, 2011, gives Planned Parenthood three weeks to make its' case for the funding. Commissioner Chism says the committee will vote to extend Planned Parenthood's contract if there's no decision made after the three weeks.