Orange County and Planned Parenthood

This nation tried abstinence-only sex education. It didn’t work.

And yet the Orange County Board of Supervisors took a serious step backward this week by suspending a contract with Planned Parenthood to provide health education for girls and young women. The grounds: Planned Parenthood provides abortions -- though not under this contract, which is for teaching about anatomy, sexually transmitted diseases, substance abuse and birth control options.

Orange County divides millions of dollars a year in tobacco settlement money among healthcare providers. Some of that money is for hospitals, and about $7.5 million goes to a coalition of community clinics that then subcontracts to its members, depending on how many poor people they serve. Of that, Planned Parenthood receives close to $300,000 for health education. No one raised any objections to the contract in the eight years before this.

"We just don't think government money should be used to talk to teens and preteens about birth control and abortion," Mario Mainero, chief of staff to Supervisor John Moorlach, told the Orange County Register. That is extraordinarily out of step in a state where 89% of parents say they want comprehensive sex education for their children, according to a 2007 poll, and where the majority of abortions are publicly funded. Moorlach's own reasoning was slightly different but perhaps even less acceptable: No matter how valuable the education that Planned Parenthood provides for the county, he doesn't like the organization because women can go to its clinics for abortions. Two other supervisors made a point of mentioning their Roman Catholic beliefs before voting. Never mind that Planned Parenthood of Orange County performs far more breast examinations than abortions.

These stances are as hypocritical as they are reprehensible. Other clinics in the coalition provide birth control; some funded hospitals perform abortions. Yet only Planned Parenthood was singled out. The supervisors' abhorrence of the organization coincides with an attempt by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) to strip funding for Planned Parenthood from the omnibus budget bill. His effort too was aimed solely at Planned Parenthood, which has been the target of a Christian conservative “defunding” movement.

It is unclear whether the board can legally rescind the contract based on opposition to abortions, because the right to abortion is constitutionally protected. It is awaiting a legal opinion before its final decision, but even without the advice of lawyers, it should know that this attack on Planned Parenthood fails every test of logic, reason and responsible public policy.

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