Planned Parenthood supporters disappointed after free condom funding in Shelby County gets pushed back

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. -- Planned Parenthood supporters expressed their disappointed on Wednesday after Shelby County commissioners pushed back a vote to give them federal funding to hand out free condoms.

They’ve been doing that in Shelby County since 2013, but a new contract has been in limbo after the county tried to have an internal agency do the job instead of Planned Parenthood.

The county was told by the state last week they couldn’t do that.

At Wednesday's county commissioner's meeting, splashes of pink popped in the room of suits and ties.

“I loved it," said London Lamar, policy associate at Sister Reach. "I think that it’s an overarching theme of what Memphis needs.”

Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region hoped to get commissioners to vote to give them federal funding -- $115,000 they’d use to continue their free condoms program.

It’s a piece of a larger grant the county received to prevent sexually-transmitted diseases, but the free condoms portion of the grant is the only one whose vote was delayed until Monday.

“It’s politicians putting politics before our community’s health," said Ashley Coffield, CEO of Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region.

They say they’ve given out 50,000 condoms a month across the county, combating the rising numbers of HIV and STD patients in our city.

“This is a life or death situation, literally," said Commissioner Van Turner.

Planned Parenthood said commissioners are using their political bias against the organization. Commissioner Terry Roland, for instance, tweeted he doesn’t support them, using the hashtag “baby killers.”

“The language that’s been used is inflammatory," said Coffield. "I think it’s dangerous.”

“I would face any judge down here, but I got to face that judge upstairs when I go," said Commissioner Roland.

The state said the decisions can’t be motivated by unrelated matters, which is something some commissioners pointed out on Wednesday.

“This is not an issue on us voting whether or not we agree with abortions or not," said Commissioner Turner.

Commissioner Turner was one of a handful who said he plans to vote for the Planned Parenthood funding and encourages a crowd to show up at Monday’s meeting at 3 p.m.

The Health Department reports Memphis leads the country in new HIV cases and chlamydia cases.

On Wednesday, Planned Parenthood brought over 1,500 signed petitions for this funding. They say if it’s voted down on Monday, they plan to file a lawsuit.

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