CANTON: Five City Council members and the body’s president failed Monday night in an attempt to encourage United Way of Greater Stark County to continue funding a local Planned Parenthood clinic.
After hearing public comments on both sides of the issue, two council members voted against the informal resolution and five abstained, leaving the measure short of the seven votes needed for passage.
Councilman James Griffin recalled a longtime city legislator in explaining his “no” vote.
“We don’t have a dog in this fight,” he said, echoing a statement made many times by the late Edward L. “Peel” Coleman, after whom a recreation center is named.
On the other side of the issue, Councilman Kevin Fisher said the city essentially works as United Way’s partner because it holds kickoff events for the nonprofit’s annual fundraisers and deducts contributions from employee paychecks.
Council President Allen Schulman said the United Way should not be religious or political, adding that if the group wants to become part of the Republican Party, it should say so.
Defunding Planned Parenthood has been a focus of several Republican legislative efforts.
Council members who joined Fisher in voting to encourage Planned Parenthood funding were Mary Cirelli, Greg Hawk, John Mariol II and Edmond Mack.
Abstaining were David Dougherty, James Babcock, Thomas West, Frank Morris and Joe Cole.
Councilwoman Chris Smith, who said she had used Planned Parenthood’s services, voted no.
Public comment on the issue centered on two main issues: Those supporting Planned Parenthood cited its role in providing health care; opponents noted its role as an abortion provider, although no such procedures are performed at the Canton location.
The United Way of Greater Stark County’s last grant to Planned Parenthood was $140,000 a year for two years through March 31, 2013.
Donors may continue to designate their United Way gift go to Planned Parenthood, but no United Way campaign funds are to be given to Planned Parenthood.
United Way changed its funding relationship with Planned Parenthood after the local organization merged in 2007 with Planned Parenthood of Northeast Ohio, which provided abortions in the Cleveland area.
The Northeast Ohio affiliate has since joined with others to form Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio.
Nancy Molnar can be emailed at email@example.com.