Planned Parenthood sues head of Tennessee Health Department

Planned Parenthood sues head of Tennessee Health Department

February 2nd, 2012 by Andy Sher in Local - Breaking News

Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH, FACOEM Tennessee Department of Health

NASHVILLE - Two Planned Parenthood affiliates are suing Tennessee Health Department Commissioner John Dreyzehner in federal court.

The lawsuit came after the health department abruptly canceled two competitively bid contracts with the groups to provide preventative services for HIV and syphilis.

Calling the state's move "disgraceful," Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee CEO Jeff Teague charged that Gov. Bill Haslam and Dreyzehner "have put politics ahead of the health and well-being of thousands of Tennesseans."

Last summer, the Planned Parenthood affiliates lost $1.1 million in family planning funding. Legislative Republicans had attacked funding for Planned Parenthood, which also provides abortion services.

"Women and men count on Planned Parenthood for life-saving health information, including HIV prevention," Teague said. "To jeopardize the lives and health of young people across Tennessee for purely political reasons is shocking and irresponsible."

Dreyzehner spokeswoman Kelley Walker said by email that "we have not yet seen the lawsuit and cannot comment on pending litigation."

The Haslam administration had no immediate comment.

The contracts were awarded in August but were canceled in December and earlier this month.

In October, the Shelby County Commission voted to switch its family-planning contract from Planned Parenthood to a faith-based organization that does not perform abortions, The Associated Press reported.

Planned Parenthood held the contract to provide family planning services until the Republican-controlled state Legislature sought to cut government funding to the organization.