NASHVILLE - A federal judge in Nashville has blocked Republican leaders' efforts to keep Planned Parenthood of Tennessee from participating in venereal disease prevention programs. The efforts are federally funded, but administered by the state and are aimed at reducing the infection rate of HIV and syphilis.
The Commercial Appeal reported U.S. District Court Judge William J. Haynes Jr. issued his ruling Wednesday, barring the state from defunding Planned Parenthood in contracts totaling more than $171,500 last year.
In his ruling, Haynes noted a political and legislative history of Republican efforts to cut the organization's funding because Planned Parenthood also performs abortions. He cited statements from then-candidate Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Sen. Stacey Campfield.
The court noted a statement in which Ramsey called Planned Parenthood "the largest abortion provider in the country" and said, "It has always been the ambition of Republicans in the legislature to defund this organization."
Barry Chase, CEO of Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region, said the agency is "thrilled that the court has permanently stopped the state from impermissibly barring Planned Parenthood from providing critical disease prevention education and services. Politics should never interfere with Tennesseans' access to critical medical services."
Planned Parenthood has received positive reviews over the last decade of administering the program, for which the contracts are let through competitive bidding.