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County commissioners to reconsider family planning grant

5/28/2014

SALINA (MCT) -- County commissioners to reconsider family planning grant

By TIM HORAN Salina Journal -- Wednesday, May 28, 2014 2:00 AM

They didn't discuss the issue during a televised meeting at which a couple of physicians and citizens lambasted them for rejecting grant funding for IUDs.

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They didn't discuss the issue during a televised meeting at which a couple of physicians and citizens lambasted them for rejecting grant funding for IUDs.

However, in a study session later Tuesday with their health department director, Saline County commissioners agreed to conduct further study and take another vote Tuesday on the Kansas Department of Health and Environment grant.

Commissioners voted unanimously last week to reject the grant of $6,064 from KDHE to fund long-acting reversible contraceptives after Commissioner John Price called them "murder," saying they could cause an abortion.

Price said last week that he had talked to two doctors who advised him that if a woman is pregnant when the IUD is inserted, it could abort the fetus. Price also said the hormonal version of the IUD prevents a fertilized egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus, which he considers a form of abortion.

"There is a lot of debate," Farmer told commissioners at the Tuesday afternoon study session.

He told commissioners that a fertilized egg that doesn't implant isn't considered a pregnancy.

Farmer also said that when a woman is breastfeeding, the same hormone used in the IUD is released, preventing a fertilized egg from implanting.

"If you say these (IUDs) cause abortion, you are saying that breastfeeding causes abortion," Farmer said.

"I'm happy with the decision I made," Price said.

"That's not the only way they work, but that is the issue here," Farmer said. "You have a fertilized egg not attaching to the wall."

"When does life begin?" Commission Chairman Randy Duncan asked.

"That's what we need to decide," Price said.

"When the sperm meets the egg, it's conception," he said later.

Patients make decisions

Farmer said all of the patients are given the information about how the IUD works.

"I feel they are in a position to make those decisions," Farmer said. "We are lucky to have this (family planning grant). If we decline this, they (KDHE) may come back and revisit the grant."

Duncan said the contraceptives have to be purchased by June 29, so there is time for the commissioners to revisit the grant.

Commissioner Jim Gile said he was willing to study the issue and reconsider it in a week.

"We need the right to investigate," he said.

"I did some research on this and it's strengthened my convictions," Price said.

Televised comments

Two physicians and several residents spoke out against Saline County commissioners at their televised meeting, lambasting them for rejecting the grant and calling Price's comments last week a disgrace.

Duncan limited citizen comments during the "open forum" portion of the meeting to three minutes each, but since Price responded to comments from Dr. Trent Davis, former chairman of the Salina-Saline County Board of Health, the time limit was loosely enforced.

Dr. Rob Freelove, CEO of Salina Family Healthcare, told commissioners that IUDs do not cause abortion if the patient is honest and if the device is inserted correctly. He also said it is an easily reversible form of birth control.

"It works by preventing fertilization," he said.

He said the device prevents sperm from reaching the egg.

He said there are processes in place to make sure a woman isn't pregnant before the IUD is inserted. He also said that how it is inserted and timing are important.

"That will eliminate that concern," he said. "It does rely on the person you are putting it in being honest in answering questions. IUDs are effective in contraception; probably one of the best, right behind abstinence."

Freelove said that because of the grant, the health department can offer the service at a reduced fee.

Let staff decide

City Commissioner Randall Hardy said that he had served on the Salina-Saline County Health Board last year along with commissioners Price and Gile.

"I do not remember any discussion or any dissent in regards to what the health department is offering to its patients," he said. "I'm assuming Mr. Price was in accordance with the decision that was made by the health department. During the health department board, those decisions, in my mind, were allowed to be made by the staff, by the people that are closest to the patients. The first thing I thought of when I saw the tape last week was a commission that was 100 percent male making a decision about a group of people that is 100 percent female. In my mind, that is not the best way to make a decision. I think it should be sent back to the health department staff for the benefit of their patients."

Karen Baltazor said that, as a woman, she should have rights, like all of the women in this town.

"If it takes three of you to go look at a bridge, then it takes three women to make this decision. Not you," she told the commission.

'It was disgraceful'

Davis said he had watched last week's county commission meeting on Access Television.

"I think it was disgraceful. He (Norman Mannel) was ask by Mr. Price to just get out of the building," he said.

"I didn't say ..." Price started to say.

"I have a transcript of the tape," Davis said. "I've watched that tape four times. You said, "You need to go leave America and go where they don't have God.'"

Price started to respond again, but Duncan asked Price to let Davis speak.

"You can't trounce on people's constitutional right," Davis said.

He said commissioners needed a class in public speaking.

After he was told his three minutes was up, Davis said that Price took up at least 20 seconds, and he was allowed to speak some more.

Davis also asked Price to resign.

Matter of policy

Herb Hackenburg said he had spent eight years in a health department.

"I don't think I have come across where a non-doctor made decisions for a health department," he said. "That's unique.

"Please reconsider. Half the population are women," he said. "They are getting pretty well mad."

Duncan said it was not unusual for the county commission to approve grants and contracts; in fact it is policy. He said the commission has been approving grant requests for more than 15 years.

"Citizens might comment that we are micromanaging. We really are not. We are doing our job as outlined in policy," Duncan said.

(c)2014 The Salina Journal (Salina, Kan.)