In an early August Plano City Council meeting, a couple of councilmen spoke up with concerns about $56K of city funding that goes to The Turning Point Rape Crisis Center, the only rape crisis center in Collin County.
The Turning Point was founded in 1982 by Carol Finch, a social worker. I wrote about it in February 2019, when they had recently debuted Courtney's SAFE Place, the first 24/7 SANE clinic in north Texas: “When it comes to the tragedy of sexual assault in Collin County, The Turning Point and their partners are the front lines,” I wrote at that time. “In the wake of #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, their calls jumped 30 percent in just a year, not because sexual assault had grown more frequent, but because more people felt empowered to come forward.” My point then, and now, is that organizations like The Turning Point are critical to caring for survivors in the wake of sexual assault.
The Turning Point receives city funding through the Community Services Grant process. Last year, Councilmen Ricciardelli questioned the City’s funding of Turning Point Rape Crisis Center, but was outvoted. But now, with the addition of Councilman Shelby Williams, he has additional support on the Council, and The Turning Point’s funding is in jeopardy.*
In short, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Anthony Ricciardelli raised the question of whether funding The Turning Point violates SB22, a Texas bill that prohibits a government agency from funding “an abortion provider” or “an abortion affiliated agency.”
“This will not be a surprise to returning members of council. The Turning Point Rape Crisis Center is an excellent group; 99 percent of the work they do is tremendous, excellent work … my conscious will not permit me to support giving funding to any organization that disseminates the Plan B pill,” Riciardelli said on August 1. He recommends ceasing the funding entirely, because paying for 99 percent of The Turning Point’s “vitally important work,” also implicitly pays for the alleged one percent.
(You can view the entire council meeting here.)
But is The Turning Point an abortion provider or abortion affiliated? According to the experts, no. Though they do offer emergency contraception in the form of Plan B, they’re following proper SAFE protocol, administering it only in specific circumstances: within 72 hours of an assault, only after a negative pregnancy test, and only if the survivor requests it.
In addition, according to the International Federation of Gynecology & Obstetrics (FIGO), levonorgestrel--otherwise known as Plan B--"is not the same as early medical abortion" because it's only effective before sperm has fertilized the egg. The American College of Gynecology & Obstetrics (ACOG) especially stresses this fact: "birth control, including emergency contraception, oral contraceptives, and long-acting reversible contraception like intrauterine devices (IUDs), does not cause abortions."
On August 1, City Attorney Paige Mims informing the whole council that The Turning Point is not by any means an abortion provider or affiliated agency, as defined by state and national law. “They are eligible for funding,” she confirmed, even with SB22 in place.
One more time: When The Turning Point administers emergency contraception, it’s within 72 hours of an assault. It’s only after a negative pregnancy test, and only if the survivor requests it.
The Texas Health and Safety Code (Chapter 323), national and state law requires that SAFE-ready healthcare facilities, which perform sexual assault exams, inform victims of their right to prophylaxis STD medications and pregnancy prevention options.
Ricciardelli and Williams state that they still need further reassurance, and The Turning Point’s Executive Director, Wendy Hanna, is scheduled to speak again later this month to offer it.
The Turning Point is a forensic clinic. It exists to collect rape kits and to care for survivors in the immediate aftermath of sexual assault. “We collect evidence of a crime, pure and simple,” Wendy Hanna has said. They provide other services, such as counseling and occasionally legal assistance. They do not perform or promote abortions, nor do they have any affiliation, written or otherwise, with any such women’s reproductive centers.
In 2016 The Turning Point received 1,441 hotline calls. Their trained volunteers made 374 hospital calls for survivors of sexual violence. In 2016, they reached 26,810 individuals through outreach and 11,573 students via education programs. They serve all of Collin County and beyond, reaching into Denton, Dallas, and the northern reaches of the state as well. The Turning Point's supporters, like Junior League of Collin County member Shannon Kmak have expressed concern over the possible withdrawal of funding from the organization. She and other Turning Point allies will attend the public hearings wearing purple to show their support.
Abortion is often a weapon of dog-whistle politicians across the spectrum, which does us all a disservice because it cheapens one of the most emotionally provocative issues of our time. It’s not a decision that anyone wants to be faced with. It’s something we probably all wish we never had to discuss at all. One of the other defining issues of our time, of course, is sexual assault.
However, in the case of The Turning Point, the question of abortion has been asked and answered. It should be a non-issue by now. Even the councilmen who advocate for defunding The Turning Point agree that their work is vital to the health, peace and safety of our community.
So I ask, from the bottom of my heart: what gives?
The public hearing concerning The Turning Point’s funding will take place Monday, August 12 at 7 p.m. An additional budget work session will take place on Saturday August 17, where Executive Director Wendy Hanna is first on the agenda, presenting at 8:30 a.m. sharp. The actual vote to approve the city budget, with or without The Turning Point’s funding, will be decided at the September 9th Council meeting.
*Correction 8/11/19 In a previous version of this article, we stated that both Councilmen Ricciardelli and Shelby questioned The Turning Point's funding last year, but Shelby was not serving on the city council at that time. We apologize for the error.
"Plano funding ONLY supports our counseling program," Executive Director Wendy Hanna commented Friday. "No funds even touch our forensic program and we just recently had a successful grant audit to show this." She also added that since opening clinics in November 2018, they have only given out 33 doses on EC, most of which was donated by a pharmaceutical vendor.
"Plano funding is less than four percent of our overall budget," she added.
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