- Published on Sunday, 08 April 2012 01:42
- Written by Super User
By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
NEW HANOVER CTY - In the wake of protestors shouting "You hate women" the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners reversed their March 12, unanimous decision not to use an $8,899 State Family Planning grant for a particular form of long-term birth control.
According to the Health Department, the grant would provide "medical services related to family planning including physician's consultation, examination, prescription, continuing supervision, laboratory examination and contraceptive supplies."
No matching funds would be required from the County. The money can be used for other family planning expenditures.
The County Board of Health approved spending the grant funds to purchase intrauterine devices (IUD's) - a form of long-term birth control - to be offered in their Family Planning program. The money was awarded to the County based on performance. IUDs are small, "T-shaped" devices made of flexible plastic. A health care provider inserts an IUD into a woman's uterus to prevent pregnancy.
With an IUD a woman doesn't have to remember to take a birth control pill or receive regular birth-control injections. Reducing the odds they'll get pregnant over the long-term. It can be used to treat other conditions.
During the March 12, County Commissioners meeting, David Rice, Director of the County Health Department, explained, "It's adding more supplies to what we already do. We're already supplying this to our customers. Because of increased demand, it would meet their needs."
Commissioner Rick Catlin - who serves on the Board of Health - explained he asked question at a previous Board of Health meeting and, "The answers I got were this would be used predominately for people who were being inconsistent or irresponsible in their existing family planning" and, "I have a fundamental philosophical issue with using taxpayer dollars to fund someone's irresponsibility. If that's not the case it's a different story, but that's the way it was described to me at the meeting."
Commissioner Jonathan Barfield explained, "With me serving on the DSS Board and the Hospital Board I see directly the impact of those that do have children out of wedlock or pregnancies that for whatever reason happened and that burden falls upon the county or the state to finance."
Rice explained, "Prevention is worth a pound of cure."
Barfield asked if the issue had anything to do with a national debate on contraception and healthcare.
Catlin explained, "No sir. It has nothing to do with that. It's about personal responsibility and accountability."
Commissioner Davis stated, "I just think personally its a sad day when the taxpayers are asked to pay money to buy contraceptives to keep young women - who should not be having sex but are having sex - from becoming pregnant. If these young women were responsible people and didn't have the sex to begin with we wouldn't be in this situation. But unfortunately that's the problem that we have."
The Board unanimously voted not to approve the budget amendment accepting the grant funding. Following the March meeting, controversy exploded online among supporters of Family Planning. That prompted Commissioner Barfield to answer critics on his Facebook page stating, "I'm getting a good lesson from my wife right this minute on the error of my vote" and, " I just interviewed with WECT as I cited the error of my vote. I don't have the right to choose for any woman...Bottom line we should have accepted the money."
Planned Parenthood and the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) issued statements denouncing the decision.
A protest of the decision was organized on Thursday March 15, at Riverfront Park in Downtown Wilmington, NC with protesters voicing their opposition to a "war on women" and denouncing the decision.
In late March the County announced the Board would reconsider the issue at their April 2, meeting.
At the April 2, meeting Chairman Ted Davis said at the March meeting the item was pulled from their consent agenda and brought up for discussion with little background information.
Davis said a report in the Star News covering a recent Board of Health meeting quoted a staff member of that department as saying, "IUD's make, quote, a good choice for women who are inconsistent with other methods of contraception. We have a lot of women who are irresponsible with taking the pill."
Davis said the item at the March 12, meeting took around six minutes with a short presentation by David Rice. He said, "David Rice made a brief presentation concerning the request to use the additional state funding to purchase IUD devices for women. I had read the newspaper article with the comments by Mrs. Turner, I listened to what Rick Catlin - who is the Board's representative on the Board of Health had to say - I made certain statements and the vote was taken."
Davis explained, "At no time did David Rice or anyone else comment on or contradict the statements that had been made by anyone on the board before the vote had been taken. This whole process took approximately six minutes."
He said, "I do not apologize for my vote, because I voted based upon the information that I had at that time. However, I understand there are women who were offended by some of my statements. If that is so, I sincerely apologize from the bottom of my heart. That was not my intention and certainly I did not mean to do so."
Davis said he learned allot since the March 12, meeting and the budget for the Health Department Family Planning Services is approximately $842,000. The cost of an IUD to the Health Department with hormones is $289.89 with a shelf life of three years. The other type without hormones is $137.49 with a shelf life of seven years. Davis said, "The $8,899 that we are discussing is just for the purpose of the IUD devices. If this money was spent to purchase IUD's without hormones - which is the cheaper of the two - approximately 65 devices could be purchased. The charge by the health department for an IUD device and the procedure to insert it is $705.00. This is not free to every woman that may receive such a device. If the person has insurance, that insurance is used. If that person does not have insurance then there's a sliding scale charge."
He explained, "There are presently no IUD devices at the health department" because the providers that inserted IUD's left the department last year. Since then an advance practitioner was hired in December with another hired in January.
Davis said part of the existing funding for the department can be used to purchase IUD's and there is no reason the health department can't currently serve the 64 women already on a waiting list for IUD's.
He said the $8,899 grant would provide additional funding and the department has requested it be used to purchase IUD's but the offset to the existing budget could be used for other family planning expenses.
Davis said he realizes women seeking contraception from the department are being responsible.
Davis said there are currently 20,000 condoms at the Health Department and 2,876 packets of birth control pills available. And neither birth control pills or IUD devices can prevent AIDS or sexually transmitted deceases.
He talked about the many other aspects of various forms of birth control. He asked if the Health Department was liable for complications from IUD's.
David Rice said the County's insurance coverage would deal with such claims.
Davis said the real issue for him is how far the Commissioners are going to go in telling the health department staff how to do their jobs. During a public hearing five people spoke in favor of approving the funding for IUD's. One spoke against it saying it did nothing to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases by easing concerns of pregnancy.
Brandie Stork spoke in favor of funding IUD's and other health services and said the funds are needed now more than ever by women in need, out of work and their homes, in need of healthcare. She said, "As a woman I am especially disgusted with the rhetoric that was used to describe the women in our community as irresponsible implying that they are reckless and promiscuous and that they are somehow getting pregnant without the help of a male counterpart."
With Davis, Catlin and Barfield voting to overturn their previous position, Commissioner Jason Thompson was unsatisfied that staff could not answer a number of specific questions about statistics. Commissioner Brian Berger also took issue and voted against the item with Thompson.
Thompson said if they have 20,000 condoms on the shelves, could they reduce that number and spend the money on something else. Officials couldn't say how many condoms they hand out each month. The same for birth control pills.
Commissioner Rick Catlin said he was amazed at the difference between what he heard April 2, and what he was told prior to the March meeting.
He explained the quote mentioned by Davis, "That was in the paper was the only explanation I received. I was shocked by that explanation as everyone has been. These were not my words... I did respond to them, I did relay them to the board, but they were not my words. If I had heard today's presentation or heard anything other than what I heard at the meeting, chances are we wouldn't be here tonight. The first explanation would have raised flags if we were looking at a grant for law enforcement, or a grant for education." He said, "It's our job as elected officials to question every use of taxpayer money and that's what I was doing. Grants are not free money. We all pay for them. They have strings attached sometimes. They can make us add staff. They can affect our policies and behavior and make us even more dependent on government funding."
He said at the same Health Department meeting, they voted not to accept a $2 million dollar grant because there were too many strings attached, but that wasn't on the radar of people at theApril 2, meeting.
He said over the last 50 years the country has become more and more dependent upon government money and it will take time to resolve that.
The Board voted three to two to approve of the request by the Health Department to use the grant funding for IUD's as previously requested.
To view video of the entire agenda item visit www.nhcgov.com and click on the link for New Hanover County Television.