After reading the disturbing comments from some members of the County Commission regarding federal funding for family planning services, I thought it was important to let my commissioner know my thoughts on the matter.
I phoned the County Commission yesterday and was told that the commissioner was unavailable; I left a message with the extremely courteous person who answered the phone. My phone rang this afternoon and I explained to Rev. McClure that I was very concerned about the potential rejection of these funds. He took time to explain the process of first review, then tabling of the issue until May 18 to allow him to be present for the final vote. He noted that he had some questions about what the money will be spent on, and had gotten satisfactory answers from Ms. Barnes. He then said he intended to vote in favor of accepting these funds for Hamilton County next week. He thanked me for taking initiative to speak with him on this issue and welcomed further calls in the future.
I understand that Commissioner McClure is a minister, and that certainly informs his statement to the Times Free Press: "My questioning and my negative vote has nothing to do with political ideology,” he said. “It has to do with my belief that every child is a human being ... at any point of conception.” My views on the matter are quiet different, and I expected a potentially uncomfortable idealogical discussion. What I did not expect - and very much appreciate - was a prompt and respectful call from my County Commissioner, and an assurance that family planning services will continue to be available in our community.
Rev. McClure and I may have sharp ideological differences, but our views on citizen participation in government could not be more similar.
Shannon Moore Edmondson
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I have now had a phone call from one of the Hamilton County Commission members who I will leave unnamed here, since he indicated quite clearly that his information reflects the actions of the "majority" of the council. I sincerely do not want to cause him any more trouble than what he brings upon himself.
However upsetting our conversation was to me, I think it's enlightening to know the County Commission is not trying to return us entirely to the Dark Ages, merely they are operating in the dark of their own experiences.
The basis of the commission's vote to not accept the funding:
In their ignorance, or because they have no experience with the process, they believe that in Hamilton County just any woman who asks can get an abortion, and they think the Health Department might be providers. And they don't have much experience with various forms of family planning or contraception practices in the current era, nor any tolerance for any talk on the subject that isn't based in their personal belief system.
Unfortunately, they also think their religious beliefs are a good enough basis for governing decisions. Their perceived specter of the evil of abortion is enough to cause them to vote against, I guess, anything.
Even though they had already vetted the issue in their finance committee (chaired by Commissioner Graham), which had recommended accepting the funds - Mr. Graham and seven others did not vote to accept the funds in the full council meeting, because the Health Department might be using the funds for abortion, and they couldn't be sure of it in the eight minutes they had to vote on the matter. It is only because they realized they weren't sure about it that they then decided to review the issue and vote again at another meeting.
At this point, I began to realize just how out of touch they are on this subject that they use as a key decision tool.
When I not so calmly expressed my derision, "You nine old men didn't know that you can't get an abortion of any kind in Hamilton County,"
he said, "You just go to your private doctors, don't you?"
None of them were sure whether or not these funds were being used for abortions, even though the health department representative was standing right there saying no. I guess they didn't trust her. It will take two more weeks of study before they can re-vote.
This gentleman has a daughter, I hope for her sake she stays in school, gets a good education, and goes far away to a good college. Perhaps at some point she can help her daddy move beyond his limited sphere of understanding. Probably not. I want to tell her now that his actions and beliefs are not now, and will not ever be, her fault.
Initially I was impressed that the gentleman had called me, and that he had talked to others. After our community reacted with care and concern for all those who had been affected by the tornadoes, I was feeling pretty good about "us."
But since he has shown me that a majority of the current County Commission is dangerously unsophisticated - a word carefully used, not meaning uneducated or innocent, instead meaning completely lacking in experience with reality - it doesn't really matter how many conversations he has on the subject. He is not listening or learning. He may change his vote as a political expediency, but I do not perceive that he will understand why it would also be the right thing to do.
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After writing to and getting immediate informative responses from both Mayor Coppinger and Commissioner McClure, it seems that the county commissioners were simply doing their job in a way to leave the matter open until they could complete the process with an informed decision.
In my 22 years attending joint city county meetings, with 8 1/2 years in face-to-face meetings with county leaders, I never once had any of them offer anything but a direct and honest response to a question or anything less that full engagement in their civic responsibilities.
In fairness, I think the initial report took a partial discussion out of context and that this process began and will end in a good way because the commissioners are good people themselves, rather than because they were out of touch and are now being brought into line.
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For those of us who believe that handouts are nothing more than a drug for irresponsible citizens to become permanently addicted, the majority of our commisioners did listen to us. It is time to cut budgets, stop the welfare state and make people personally responsible for their actions. If you need birth control, take responsibility and get it yourself. If you cannot afford it, then try abstinence. There is this little thing called self-control that helps to build discipline and character, two things we seem to be missing in society at this time.
Oh, I forgot, if you are abstinent, you cannot qualify for WIC and leach from responsible taxpayers while burdening society with additional children that are nothing more than a little extra money each month to many parents who have learned to manipulate the system to their advantage.