Council members advise continued financial support for non-profit after dispute over emergency contraceptive, abortion
Following concerns from Plano city council members that threatened to defund The Turning Point, Collin County’s only rape crisis center, the Plano city council has indicated that it has reached an agreement to continue funding the non-profit organization.
The Turning Point provides services to those impacted by sexual violence, including counseling, advocacy and access to contraceptives, among other things. The organization also provides UTD with sexual assault nurse examiners through the Student Health Center. These nurses conduct on-campus sexual assault forensic exams for UTD students so that survivors don’t have to be transported off-campus after being assaulted.
In an August 1 budget work session, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Anthony Ricciardelli said he believed the Plan B Pill, an emergency contraceptive, could kill a fetus if it prevented the implantation of a fertilized egg. Representatives for The Turning Point stated that they only administer Plan B pills to women who get a negative response on pregnancy test within 72-hours of their assault.
“The Turning Point rape crisis center is a wonderful group. Ninety-nine percent of the work they do is not just good, it’s tremendously important, excellent work,” Ricciardelli said. “My conscience will not permit me to give funding to any organization that disseminates the Plan B pill, because in some circumstances the Plan B pill destroys a human life.”
Fellow council member Shelby Williams said he shared Ricciardelli’s reservations about funding the center. Williams shared his thoughts in a Facebook post on Aug. 13.
“The Plan B pill works primarily to prevent the release of an egg (ovulation), can prevent fertilization of an egg, and has no effect if implantation has already occurred (no issue so far), but it also can prevent implantation of an already-fertilized egg, thus terminating an already-conceived life,” Williams wrote. “If it weren’t for that, there would be no issue, and this would never have been discussed.”
Political science senior Julia Leary was at an Aug. 12 Plano city council meeting. Leary said she became aware of The Turning Point in a ninth grade health class and interacted with The Turning Point while she was a part of The Public Health Initiative at UTD.
“I don’t know what the harm would (be) if we lost them. I couldn’t even imagine because I don’t think our police departments, our city resources are equipped to handle all the people that would be turning to them instead,” Leary said. “When I was at the city council meeting, just the amount of women who came and talked about how the center literally saved their lives, it was super impactful to hear the direct impact it had on people.”
Ricciardelli also expressed concerns about solely funding counseling at The Turning Point.
“My view is that: even if funds are only used for certain purposes, by paying for one thing we free up the funds that would’ve paid for that thing to be used for the Plan B pills instead since money is fungible it’s hard for a restriction on funds to be meaningful,” Ricciardelli said.
Ricciardeli said he would like to use the $57,000 to fund counseling for survivors of sexual assault through a contract with a private counselor.
At an Aug. 12 city council meeting, Rachel Mailman said the city of Plano should continue to fund the rape crisis center.
“The Turning Point saved my life,” Mailman said. “I was assigned a wonderful, licensed practical counselor who believed me, listened to me, supported me. I came to grips with what happened and was able to succeed at work and at home. I sent my abuser divorce papers. I was supported in counseling sessions and group sessions when he refused to sign them. I learned that I was still myself even with his name on me.”
Executive director of The Turning Point, Wendy Hanna, said the practice of giving Plan B is not related to the funding received from the city of Plano.
“We are asking for funding for therapists trained in the unique and highly sensitive dynamics of sexual assault and post-traumatic stress,” Hanna said. “To create such a hullabaloo over the non-related practice of offering a medication that is essential in the ability for some survivors to move forward from their trauma really just takes away from what is really important and vital to their healing: restoring their power.”
Plano mayor Harry LaRosiliere proposed continued funding for The Turning Point, with a change of the current contract.
“My proposal is pretty simple: we write into the contract of the grant that the $57,000 is for counseling (and) any administrative support that may be applicable,” LaRosiliere said.
Voting on the finalized budget will take place Sept. 9.