A demonstrator at the Capitol during Senate debate Aug. 3 on defunding Planned Parenthood. (New York Times photo)

Georgia cuts off STD screening kits for Planned Parenthood

The state of Georgia has pulled the plug on providing Planned Parenthood Southeast with free test kits that screen for sexually transmitted diseases.

A state public health official said the money for the kits had simply run out, but Planned Parenthood Southeast asserted on Monday that the action was political. The organization received news of the cutback one day after Gov. Nathan Deal announced, in July, that he wanted the state Departments of Public Health and Community Health to investigate Planned Parenthood.

The funding for the kits, which test for chlamydia and gonnorhea, ran out on Friday.

In ordering the state's investigation, Deal was responding to a surreptitious videotape, made by anti-abortion activists posing as representatives of a “human biologics” firm, in which a national Planned Parenthood official described harvesting fetal body parts after abortions.

State investigators have since visited five Planned Parenthood sites in Georgia – three in Atlanta and one each in Savannah and Augusta, according to Staci Fox, CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast.

A spokesman for the Department of Community Health would not comment.

Fox said the organization in Georgia follows state law on disposing of fetuses – it contracts with a company that incinerates them – and does not trade in the tissues.

“Fetal tissue donation is illegal in the state of Georgia, and we abide by the law,” Fox said.

She questioned the state’s action on the STD kits.

“It’s deeply concerning,” Fox said. “We’re telling women their health care is not important.”

Nancy Nydam, spokeswoman for the DPH, said the money for the kits, which had been coming from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had dried up.

“We had no contractual agreement (with Planned Parenthood),” said Nydam. “We provided test kits to many organizations, and that money was cut.”

The Journal-Constitution could not determine on Monday how many of the kits the state had provided in the past or what they cost.

Fox said she was unhappy when Deal announced on July 16 that he wanted the state to investigate Planned Parenthood’s five sites in Georgia. The Augusta site, she said, is the only one that performs surgical abortions.

Planned Parenthood came under intense criticism after videos released last month showed its senior medical officer discussing the sale of fetal body parts.

“In light of recent revelations regarding alleged illegal Planned Parenthood activity and to ensure this horrific practice is not occurring here, the governor directed the Department of Community Health and the Department of Public Health to conduct a joint review of the clinics run by Planned Parenthood Southeast in Georgia,” said a Deal spokeswoman.

Several other governors followed suit.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, a doctor, said last week that Alabama Medicaid would terminate its provider contract with Planned Parenthood. The state’s spending with the organization was modest — about $4,300 during the past two years on contraceptives, according to al.com.

“It’s just plain politics,” said Fox.

Abortion providers do not typically receive taxpayer funds for providing abortions. Federal funding is prohibited by law except in cases of rape, incest or endangerment of the woman.

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