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City of Fresno approves passing through state funds allocated for Planned Parenthood

A member of the community speaks addresses the city council during public comment.
City of Fresno
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A member of the community speaks in favor of the City of Fresno serving as a pass-through entity for $1 million in state funds designated to a local Planned Parenthood.

The Fresno City Council voted 5-1 Thursday to serve as a pass-through entity for $9.5 million in state funds designated for local non-profits. Of that funding, $7 million went to Arte Americas and $1.5 million to the job skills training organization Neighborhood Industries. But intense debate surrounded one million of that money earmarked for the healthcare organization Planned Parenthood Mar Monte.

The issue dominated public comment with anti-abortion and abortion rights activists speaking out about the funding. Many pro-life speakers became emotional as they pleaded with the city council members to reject the funding.

For instance, Yvonne Trejo said she mentors young women who have used Planned Parenthood services for abortion. “I have been there with women who have had the heartache of abortion and had to get healed from that memory,” she said.

Dr. Venise Curry, however, emphasized that supporting Planned Parenthood means supporting healthcare. “Your ability to serve as a pass-through for these funds so that they get to a place, an organization that has established itself as yes, providing health care for people who are underserved or uninsured, that’s really the focus,” she said.

Councilmember Garry Bredefeld argued the state money should instead be used to fund adoption services or prenatal care, even though the organization does provide the latter. “This one million dollars directed for abortions is frankly disgraceful and a complete misuse of taxpayer money,” he said.

Bredefeld called abortion “evil” and “brutal” before playing a video by a man claiming to be a doctor who used to perform abortions. “Abortion is not a sanitary, sanitized thing. It is actually killing a life,” Bredefeld said.

Councilmember Luis Chavez pointed out that Planned Parenthood provides more services than abortions. “They do include mammograms, pap smear, diabetes screening, heart disease,” he said, plus it satisfies another big need. “They provide contraceptive services, which is something that I think there's a lot of consensus on here. Because they actually prevent pregnancies and prevent us from having these situations,” he said.

Both councilmembers Esmeralda Soria and Tyler Maxwell spoke about the lack of access to healthcare in underserved areas, a need which they believed Planned Parenthood fills. “Communities across not just the City of Fresno, but across the Valley, depend on the critical services from Planned Parenthood,” said Soria.

The funds for Planned Parenthood and the other non-profits were secured by Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula, which were part of $21.5 million in State General Fund allocations secured for a variety of local agencies. “I am proud to have secured these funds that address equity and increase access to the cultural arts, employment training, and health care services for the poor and uninsured,” read a statement from Arambula in response to Thursday’s vote.

Earlier this week, Mayor Jerry Dyer expressed his intent to veto the resolution. But with a supermajority vote, it is not likely to hold, since five votes are needed to override the veto.

Soreath Hok is a multimedia journalist with over 16 years of experience in radio, television and digital production. She is a 2022 National Edward R. Murrow Award winner. At KVPR she covers local government, politics and other local news.