City turns focus of Planned Parenthood grant from abortion access, to birth control

Metro officials will consider shifting direction on a proposed half-million dollar grant to Planned Parenthood, removing provisions referencing abortion access and instead funding sex education and access to free contraception.

Mayor John Cooper's administration proposed substitute legislation Friday with support from Council members that removes references to abortion-related services from the grant allocation, including navigation assistance for Davidson County residents seeking abortion care outside Tennessee.

The initial proposal for the $500,000 grant program would have dedicated $150,000 to assist Davidson County residents with access to abortion outside Tennessee. Another $200,000 would provide "comprehensive sex education" resources and $150,000 would cover "safer sex supplies" and community outreach.

The change comes under advice from Metro attorneys to ensure compliance with Title X, a federal grant program which stipulates institutions receiving Title X dollars may not fund abortion or abortion-related services.

"To be compliant with Title X in the grant contract, the suggestion was to remove navigation services but leave the services that provide for sex education … and expand it to include specifically provision of contraception services and materials," Metro Director of Legislative Affairs Mike Jameson said Friday.

Provider institutions have also expressed "due concerns" about legal implications and potential criminal charges as abortion laws continue to be disputed throughout the country, Council member and resolution co-sponsor Freddie O'Connell said Friday. It is not illegal in Tennessee to assist someone who travels out of state for abortion care.

The substitute resolution, which will be considered by Metro Council on Tuesday, would instead appropriate $500,000 from various city sources in Metro's existing budget to Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi to provide:

  • comprehensive sexual health education

  • distribution of "safer sex supply kits"

  • family planning and birth control counseling

  • birth control products

"For me personally and for my co-sponsors, I think we are all committed to doing whatever we can to ensure that pregnancy is planned to the extent it possibly can be, and that's why there is still a lot of important funding in here for family planning," O'Connell said.

A separate bill sponsored by Council member Emily Benedict that would have required the Metro Health Department to provide family planning and birth control counseling as well as free contraceptives would be indefinitely deferred should the substitute move forward. Providing those services to all Davidson County residents would cost about $2.5 million per year, according to the bill's fiscal note.

“During this moment when hundreds of thousands of Nashvillians have been suddenly denied a fundamental right, Mayor Cooper has identified funding for new legislation that will support Planned Parenthood’s work throughout the city," administration spokesperson TJ Ducklo said in a statement Friday.

Metro Council deferred the original resolution in September as Metro worked to identify alternate sources for the funding — a major hurdle for the proposed program.

The substitute proposed by the mayor's office pulls funding from the following departments:

  • $90,000 from Police

  • $60,000 from Parks

  • $60,000 from Library

  • $60,000 from Nashville Department of Transportation

  • $60,000 from Health

  • $30,000 from Planning

  • $20,000 from Codes

  • $20,000 from Finance

  • $20,000 from Mayor's Office

  • $20,000 from Metro Council

  • $20,000 from General Services

  • $20,000 from Human Resources

  • $10,000 from Department of Law

  • $10,000 from Human Relations Commission

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Nashville turns focus of Planned Parenthood grant away from abortion