On Monday the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners unanimously declined a $9,000 dollar family planning grant from the Department of Health and Human Services.
WHQR’s Sara Wood reports the funds are performance-based and were offered to 58 other counties with an increasing number of clients.
The one-time bonus funds were awarded by the Division of Public Health’s Women’s Health Branch. The county health department proposed using the money to increase supplies of Intrauterine devices, or IUDs, which are inserted into a woman’s uterus, preventing pregnancy for 5-10 years. Carla Turner is the personal health services manager at the health department.
“Every woman has a right to have her reproductive health taken care of. We provide this service, whether it be birth control pills, whether it be an IUD or whether it be the Depo-Provera shot, we provide these along with extensive education for these women to try to ensure that their reproductive health is protected. Because they deserve that.”
Turner says IUDs are provided as an option for women with health problems who cannot take birth control pills. She says they are also potentially more cost-effective in the long run. But on Monday, all five commissioners voted against the money even though it would not have required the county to match funds. After Vice-Chairman Jonathan Barfield, Jr. voted one way, he went home to be persuaded in the opposite direction.
“My wife and I had a very lively discussion and her first question to me was, ‘Jonathan what were you thinking?’ And with a wife and three daughters we talked through the issue. The more questions she asked the more I realized I made a colossal error in the vote that I had made.”
Chairman Ted Davis, who declined to be interviewed did offer the comment, “My vote is my vote.” In the meeting Davis stated, “If young women were responsible people and didn’t have the sex to begin with, we wouldn’t be in this situation.” Again, Vice-Chairman Barfield.
“But as my wife and I talked through she said, ‘Jonathan if someone’s seeking contraceptives that means they are acting in a responsible manner,’ and I said ‘You’re exactly right.”
Barfield says he is sorry for his decision on Monday, but says after speaking with other commissioners the feeling’s not entirely shared. As for the funds, the money isn’t off the table yet. Carla Turner says the health department has the opportunity to find ways to re-purpose the money.
“At a management team level, we may be able to go back and determine what other things in our family planning program we could use it for, whether it be for clinic services or whether it be for outreach, education. We weren’t tied into doing this, we were encouraged.”
The Board of Health could vote on potential new uses as soon as next month. Ultimately the decision would have to be approved once again by the board of commissioners.
To watch the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners' meeting, visit the county web site. The health budget amendment can be found under Item 8.