Plano Council Reaches a Deal on Rape Crisis Center Funding

After an emotional outcry from people in Collin County, Plano's City Council says it's found a compromise to continue funding a rape crisis center after two council members expressed concern over the center providing the morning-after pill to rape survivors.

The debate during this year's budget process began after Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Anthony Ricciardelli and Council Member Shelby Williams raised objections about a pending $57,542 community service grant to The Turning Point – saying the center provides the morning after pill to clients.

"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 an August 1st budget work session.

Saturday, the mayor and city council agreed on a plan to continue to provide a grant to the center with the stipulation the money is only used for counseling and administrative services. The funding would be provided on a reimbursement basis to ensure it is not used to purchase contraceptives.

"This is a vital service for Collin County and we want to be able to provide funding, but we don't believe taxpayers should be on the hook specifically for the Plan B pill," said Councilman Williams.

"We were trying to figure out an economic mechanism to enable us to give them the grant," Williams explained.

The Turning Point has said Plano's grant was never used to pay for contraceptives. Instead, the funding covers the salary of a full-time counselor and partially pays for a case manager.

"That is dozens of survivors who don't get our services, who don't get healing, who maybe have to pay for outside services that aren't up to the standard that we provide," said Vanessa Baum, The Turning Point's Primary Prevention Coordinator.

"This is just one more thing they have to deal with and we don't need to be adding onto their plate," Baum added. "We need to be helping take things off of their plate and serving them and helping them heal and move past this, not making it harder for them."

The Turning Point says the emergency contraceptive is offered to survivors within 72 hours of an assault and after a negative pregnancy test.

Cara Prentice, a rape survivor and past volunteer for The Turning Point, said the debate over the morning-after pill should never have taken center stage this summer.

"I think that's an argument people can have in another venue, or another dynamic, but it doesn't belong in talking about grant funding for counseling for a rape crisis center," said Prentice.

"I feel like it was just unnecessary," Prentice said. "But at the same time, it was a beautiful example of women and men who are survivors and supporters of The Turning Point coming out and saying we're going to stand up for this."

The city council plans a final vote on next year's budget on September 9.

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