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California Planned Parenthood Confronts Local School Board over Suspension of Sex-Ed Funds

On April 7, 2009, more than 40 Planned Parenthood supporters, community members, and representatives from other women’s groups attended the Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting to urge the board to rescind its ruling to suspend a $291,788 health education contract awarded by the county to Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino counties.[i] The board had voted unanimously on March 10th to take back the funding after several board members expressed moral concern over awarding funding to an organization that performs abortions. [ii]

The contract with Planned Parenthood was originally approved in June of 2008 as part of a $7.5 million agreement with the Orange County Coalition of Community Clinics, funded through tobacco settlement revenue. Eighteen other clinics share the funds with Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood allocates its portions of the funds to sex education programs for teens and pre-teens that discuss anatomy, physiology, birth control, abstinence, and sexually transmitted diseases. The funds are not in any way used for abortion services.[iii]
Supervisor John Moorlach was the first to draw attention to the grant in February of 2009 when it came to his attention through a constituent that Planned Parenthood was on the list of recipients. Moorlach asked that the board revisit the contract and expressed moral issues with giving money to an organization that provides abortions. Other supervisors followed suit. Supervisor Chris Norby voted to suspend the funds saying, I don’t believe the county should be funding abortion, and I don’t believe the county really should be involved in funding an organization who performs about 35 percent of the abortions in the country.”[iv] Moorlach’s office also supports adopting a new policy before voting on the allocation of tobacco settlement funds for next year that would require the money to be spent on direct care services instead of health education. Such funding restrictions would also impact other grantees, which use the money to provide health education along with providing direct services.  
Planned Parenthood supporters submitted petitions with approximately 4,000 signatures asking the board to reconsider arguing that the decisions was based on religious grounds and describing it as “unconstitutional” and “irresponsible.” One supporter even characterized the ruling as “the equivalent of modern day book burning.”3 "It’s clear this decision is being driven by personal religious ideology and not the vision of health care for the county," said Jon Dunn, president of Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties.[v]
At the April 7th meeting, both those who supportedand those who opposed the board’s decision gave remarks at the meeting, however, because the issue was not on the official meeting agenda, the board did not take any action at the time.   The issue was revisited a few weeks later at the April 22nd meeting, when the board voted to reinstate the county’s contract with Planned Parenthood based in large part on a recommendation from the county’s Health Care Agency which explained that Planned Parenthood did not violate any policy. At the same time, the board also voted to rewrite the contract guidelines for next year to restrict the funding to direct clinical care. The new guidelines also require grant recipients that offer family planning services or counseling that include information on abortion to demonstrate that the money does not support abortion services or referrals. Planned Parenthood says that it plans to apply for the funding next year with a proposal that will meet the new requirements of the grant.[vi]

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[i] Christine Hanley, “Planed Parenthood Urges O.C. Supervisors to Reinstate Contract” Los Angeles Times (7 April 2009), accessed 19 April 2009, <,0,7178169.story>.

[ii] Jennifer Muir, “Planned Parenthood Supporters Confront Board,” The Orange Country Register (7 April 2009), accessed 19 April 2009, <>.
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Jennifer Muir, “County Cancels Sex-ed Contract, citing abortions; Supervisors terminate preteen education grant to Planned Parenthoodl$290,00 grant did not fund abortions,” The Orange Country Register (10 March 2009), accessed 19April 2009, <>.
[v] Ibid.
[vi] “Orange County, Calif., Reinstates Planned Parenthood Contract, Restricts Future Funding,” Daily Women’s Health Policy Report, National Partnership for Women and Families, (30 April 2009), accessed 4 May 2009, <>.