It was good while it lasted.

After a three-year gap, the municipal council in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont. has decided to fund the local Planned Parenthood chapter to the tune of $25,000 in the coming year. The move comes after municipal elections that saw a few more pro-Planned Parenthood councillors (including the mayor) added to the roster.

Three years ago, the municipal council cut off the funding it had been providing to the Planned Parenthood Waterloo Region chapter since 1976. The decision followed a concerted effort on the part of family advocates and pro-life supporters to have the notorious pro-abortion organization struck from the public record. The Planned Parenthood chapter, which sees about 100 clients a month, was turned down for funding in 1995 and 1997, and didn’t even bother applying in 1996.

In the latest vote, the new council voted 12-10 to fund Planned Parenthood this year.

“We weren’t at all surprised,” said Jane Richard, co-ordinator for the Right to Life Association of Kitchener-Waterloo and Area. “We knew the way the councillors were going to vote.”

Still, there’s good news. Richard said the close 12-10 vote indicates it may be possible to swing a few councillors’ votes the other way next time and so cut off funding once again. Pro-life advocates need just one more vote to force a tie and thus defeat a funding motion.

As well, the $25,000 Planned Parenthood will be receiving is short of the $32,000 it had requested. The council also rejected Planned Parenthood’s plea for three years of funding (until the next election) instead of just one year’s worth. And, the council agreed for about the 10th straight year to grant the Serena natural family planning organization $2,500.

“We had a strong lobbying voice, and still do,” said Richard. “We’re optimistic about next year. We gained a lot of public support this time around.”

Richard said the three-year funding gap for Planned Parenthood was “a positive thing” for the community and created a momentum for pro-life and pro-family supporters that continues. “We have to remain optimistic. We made a significant statement. Parents have started becoming more aware of what’s happening to their children. The next step lies in seeing if we can provide a supplement (to local public health services) in the form of chastity education.”

Meanwhile, the news is a little brighter in the Hamilton area. Hamilton-Wentworth’s public health committee recently voted to explore alternatives to Planned Parenthood’s monopoly on non-governmental sexual health provision in the region. That means that organizations more friendly to human life and the family, such as Birthright and the pro-abstinence IDEA program (Informed Decisions Empowering Adolescents) stand a chance at receiving public funding after being shut out until now.

The Planned Parenthood Society of Hamilton has been receiving  interim public funding of about $30,000 a month since the start of the year (when the province downloaded financial responsibilities onto the region), but has still had to lay off five of its 12 staff. The agency used to receive $359,000 per year through provincial transfers. Now, the region’s medical officer of health has been mandated to talk with all agencies that provide provincially mandated sexual health programs.

The breakthrough comes after a concerted lobbying effort by the Hamilton-Wentworth Family Action Council, a local group of pro-life and pro-family citizens. The Council has been meeting intensively with local politicians since late last year, when the issue of funding for Planned Parenthood first came up.

HWFAC sex-ed committee chair Jim Enos pointed out that a Planned Parenthood Society of Hamilton brochure aimed at youth stated that “there is no magic age for sex” and that “you may be ready (for sex) if you expect it to be pleasurable.”

“This, in my opinion, is not language conducive to reducing sexually transmitted diseases or unplanned pregnancy, but rather relays a message of sexual irresponsibility,” Enos remarked.

Although HWFAC representatives expressed some disappointment with the fact that the public health committee failed to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood completely, they were philosophical in remarking that the result was the best that could be gained under the circumstances.

The HWFAC, and Enos, withstood some blistering attacks from Planned Parenthood and local media, led by the Hamilton Spectator newspaper, in working toward the result. In the weeks leading up to the public health committee’s decision, Spectator columnists Andrew Dreschel and Mike Davison (a former Hamilton city councillor) savaged Enos and the HWFAC for using Planned Parenthood as a “public whipping boy for ignorance and ideology” and for speaking “to a narrow, political interpretation of Christianity.”

After the committee’s decision, the media tirade intensified with further attacks by Dreschel against what he saw as “a smear campaign” against Planned Parenthood by Enos, whom Dreschel accused of twisting and misrepresenting facts in a “flagrant abuse of process.”

Sanity “had flown the moment Enos was allowed to parade his group’s homophobic attitudes unchallenged in a roomful of democratically elected politicians,” Dreschel wrote. “The only group that emerged from the meeting with its integrity intact was Planned Parenthood.”

An “obscure pressure group can walk into a room and malign and misrepresent both a minority and a venerable community organization, and they do it not only with impunity but with the silence that signals consent,” he added.

The next day, The Spectator came out with an editorial endorsing the Planned Parenthood Society of Hamilton. ” Those who preach extreme ideology of any kind aren’t a solution; history tells us they do more harm than good,” the paper admonished. “Provided Planned Parenthood continues to operate in an accountable, responsible way, it is deserving of regional government support.”

Despite the media offensive, however, Hamilton-Wentworth Family Action Council representatives feel they’re in the driver’s seat and are optimistic that a good portion of the funds now being funnelled to Planned Parenthood may find their way to groups including Birthright, which for years has been providing stalwart service to youth, pregnant teens and young mothers in Hamilton’s downtown core on a meagre budget.