Plan B at Center of Rape Crisis Center Funding Debate in Plano

Supporters of a rape crisis center organized an effort to speak out at Monday's Plano City Council meeting after at least two council members expressed personal objections to providing a grant to a nonprofit that provides clients with Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill.

The over-the-counter medication is offered to survivors of sexual assault at The Turning Point rape crisis center in Plano within 72 hours of an assault and after a negative pregnancy test, according to the center's executive director Wendy Hanna.

"It's like heavy doses of birth control pill," Hanna said. "As long as you get it in under 72 hours of the assault and after a negative pregnancy test, it can not abort a conception. It just does not allow the fertilization or implantation."

At an Aug. 1 Plano City Council budget work session, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Anthony Ricciardelli expressed concern about a pending $57,542 community service grant to The Turning Point.

"Ninety-nine percent of the work they do is not just good, it's tremendously important and excellent work," Ricciardelli said.

But he said he expressed similar concerns last year and his convictions have not changed.

"My conscience will not permit me to support giving funding to any organization that disseminates the Plan B pill, because in some circumstances the Plan B pill destroys a human life," Ricciardelli said at the meeting.

He added he believed medication that prevents the implantation of a fertilized egg would kill an unborn child.

Councilman Shelby Williams also voiced similar concerns at the Aug. 1 budget session.

During the work session, the city attorney advised the council The Turning Point is not considered an abortion provider and funding the nonprofit would not violate a new state law that prohibits government agencies from funding abortion.

During the discussion, Mayor Harry LaRosiliere pointed out the city previously agreed to restrict its funding to services that did not include medication.

Monday night, supporters of The Turning Point signed up to speak at the council meeting – which continued late into the evening.

Kellie Lander, a sexual assault survivor and a client of The Turning Point, said she raced down to the council meeting and signed up to speak out against cutting any funding for the nonprofit.

"My life was saved by The Turning Point," Lander told NBC 5. "I know there was an eight-month waiting period for me with the funding they currently have, so if they don't have that funding and there's nowhere in Collin County for survivors to go to – what happens to those women?" Lander said.

Hanna said the grant from Plano would make up less than 4% of The Turning Point's total budget, but she explained the money does not pay for medication.

Instead, Hanna said it funds the salary of a full-time counselor and partially pays the salary of a case manager. The nonprofit currently has four full-time counselors.

"Revoking any funding no matter how small or how large, especially specifically targeted to counseling, is unconscionable," Hanna said. "We have to serve these people, we have to meet their needs."

Williams and Ricciardelli both said they weren't available for interviews before Monday's city council meeting.

In a text message to NBC 5, Ricciardelli said, "I strongly support using all $57,000 to help sexual assault victims, even if not necessarily through this specific organization."

Williams referred NBC 5 to his Facebook page for a write up on his position. 

The council expects to vote on the proposed budget in September. The council will discuss Community Service Grant funding of the Turning Point Rape Crisis Center this Saturday, Aug. 17, during a Budget Work Session.

The discussion is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m.

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