By Tim Horan

The Salina Journal

Saline County commissioners Tuesday agreed to accept a grant of about $1,000 from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to be used to purchase commissioner-approved birth control.

Commissioner John Price also said he wants every Saline County Health Department purchase of birth control to have prior approval of county commissioners.

He said that some birth control pills can be used as a morning-after pill, which he calls abortion.

"Otherwise I would just as soon get out of birth control," Price said Tuesday morning. "I am not wanting to spend county money on abortion. I've talked to a lot of people that don't want their money spent on abortion. Call it what you want to call it. Call it science. You line children up and you take their lives."

Price said that perhaps the health department should just hand out condoms.

An exchange of words

Price also exchanged words with County Clerk Don Merriman.

After twice being told by Merriman that the health department was requesting that the state grant be used for pills approved by the county commission, Price said, "You already pointed that out once."

"OK. Yell at me all you want," Merriman fired back.

"If you want to be a commissioner, run for the commission," Price said. "Make the big bucks."

Later in the meeting, Merriman started to make another comment.

"Don, why don't you keep your mouth shut? You're here to record, not run your mouth," Price said.

"You can bully me all you want," Merriman told Price.

Asked for Portia

Bronson Farmer, health department director, first asked for commission approval of the $1,032 grant last week. While the money could be used for anything involving family planning, the department wanted to use the money to purchase a birth control pill called Portia, which isn't currently stocked.

At an informal meeting Tuesday morning, Farmer said Portia, taken as directed, provides excellent birth control.

"Unwanted pregnancies are the main reason for abortion," Farmer said in addressing Price's concern about the county being involved with abortion. "By getting out of the birth control business we would be doing just the opposite."

Request changed

This week Farmer asked that the grant money be used to "replenish (Board of County Commission) approved birth control pills as stock becomes low."

Price last week requested and reviewed a list of birth control pills the health department has in stock and found one called Seasonique, which he said could also be used as a morning-after pill.

Price said he goes online to ec.princeton.com to see if a birth control pill can be used as a morning-after pill. If a pill can be used as a morning-after pill, he said, he will not support the county supplying that pill to clients.

To use Portia as a morning-after pill, one would take four pills within 72 hours of unprotected sex, followed by four more after 12 hours, according to information on the website.

Farmer said that is a misuse of the pills.

Ordering the pills

Farmer suggested that commissioners approve a list of birth control pills and the health department simply order from that list.

"We were going to order the ones other than the Seasonique," Farmer said.

"How do we know what you are ordering?" Price said.

"We don't know what we are going to run low on," Farmer replied. "We could be directed not to order the Seasonique."

Instead, Price wants commissioners to approve each order before a purchase is made.

"Tell us what you are ordering and we can compare it to this list," Price said.

Why different pills

Farmer said there are a number of pills available because every woman's body is different.

"Some react positive to birth control; some don't react as well. We try to provide the birth control that works best for that individual," Farmer said. "There are different strengths that have side effects."

Farmer said that most birth control pills could be used as a morning-after pill but not if used as prescribed.

Favor birth control

Commissioner Jim Gile said he was in favor of the health department providing birth control pills.

"As long as we know what we are ordering," Price responded.

(c)2014 The Salina Journal