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TN Lawsuit says Leaders Put Politics Ahead of Health

February 3, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Two Tennessee Planned Parenthood affiliates on Thursday sued the state Department of Health in federal court over funding for HIV and syphilis prevention which they say was revoked without cause or warning.

The funding cut affects Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee and Memphis. Program contracts were awarded in August but then abruptly revoked in December and January. Jeff Teague, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Tennessee, says the move was politically motivated by Legislative Republicans.

"This is clearly political agenda, another political attack on Planned Parenthood. We just think it's shameful and disgraceful that the governor and commissioner of health are playing politics with the health and lives of young people."

No reason has been announced for the cuts, and Gov. Bill Haslam has not commented on the lawsuit.

Teague says contracts with Planned Parenthood are a supplement to the work of public health departments, which often don't have the resources to provide services to everyone who needs them. The pregnancy rate among teens in Tennessee is twice the national average, he says, adding that it's important that young people get the information they need to protect themselves.

Teague says the health and well-being of thousands of Tennesseans are at risk, especially that of teenagers and young adults.

"Over the past five years the new HIV infection rate amongst 15- to 24-year-olds in Tennessee has more than doubled, so clearly HIV prevention needs to be a priority in Tennessee."

Teague says Planned Parenthood has received 10 years of positive reviews and has done an excellent job implementing prevention programs across the state. More than 11,000 women, men and teens used the group's Tennessee health centers last year for a wide range of services, he says, including annual exams, cancer screenings, birth control and prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. Teague adds that one in five women has relied on Planned Parenthood at some point in her life.

Bo Bradshaw, Public News Service - TN