Tennessee Gov. Haslam Names Abortion Backer Top Health Official

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 2, 2011   |   3:25PM   |   Nashville, TN

Governor Bill Haslam is drawing criticism from the state’s pro-life organization for naming an abortion backers as the top health official in the Volunteer State.

Haslam announced today his selection of Dr. John Dreyzehner for the state’s top medical post, but it drew quick response from, which says Dreyzehner’s close association with a leading pro-abortion advocacy organization calls into question his suitability for the head of the state health department.

“I am pleased that John has agreed to join our team,” Haslam said. “He brings a wealth of experience to the position from his service in the Air Force to his work as a public health official in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee. I look forward to working with him and appreciate his willingness to serve the citizens of Tennessee.”

According to Tennessee Right to Life, Dreyzehner was a featured presenter earlier this year at a conference of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA), a group which, according to its website, exists to promote “reproductive freedom” and to lobby for unlimited abortion and the expansion of tax payer funding for agencies such as Planned Parenthood. That nationwide group calls itself ‘the voice for family planning’ and stresses the importance of “strengthening the Title X program,” an effort by the federal government which directs millions of tax dollars annually to Planned Parenthood affiliates around the nation.

Earlier this year during a 2011 NFPRHA conference, Dreyzehner joined a leading pro-abortion lobbyist, Rachel Benson Gold, to present a session entitled “Family Planning Workforce Challenges.” The seminar focused on assisting “reproductive health” agencies to position themselves to take full benefit of the coming federal health care programs.

Gold serves as public policy analyst for the Washington-based Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion group which strongly opposes pro-life legislation and which was originally organized as a research arm of Planned Parenthood.

Tennessee Right to Life president Brian Harris told LifeNews today his group expresses deep disappointment in the Governor’s pick.

“After a legislative session in which pro-life majorities made clear their desire to bar the use of tax dollars for agencies such as Planned Parenthood, it appears that the Governor has invited a fox into the henhouse,” said Harris. “Dreyzehner’s active involvement with an organization so radically supportive of abortion makes clear that pro-life Tennesseans will have a continued fight in order to enforce even the most basic pro-life protections for unborn children and abortion vulnerable women in our state.”

Dreyzehner the director of the Cumberland Plateau Health District in Southwest Virginia. He was previously an Air Force flight surgeon and practiced occupational medicine in Lebanon, Virginia. He is also adjunct faculty at the East Tennessee State University College of Public Health and a visiting assistant professor at the University of Virginia.

The selection comes on the heels of an announcement that the state of Tennessee has awarded Planned Parenthood $75,000 in federal taxpayer funds the state received to a project meant to combat syphilis in the Memphis area.

WMC-TV 5 indicates the Tennessee Department of Health gave Parenthood Greater Memphis Region (PPGMR) a grant to combat syphilis in Shelby County that allows Planned Parenthood to prop itself up by adding legitimate medical services to its abortion business. PPGGMR will able to provide free syphilis testing starting next month at its 2430 Poplar Avenue  facility.

Harris’ group worked to eliminate taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood and successfuly won legislative approval of a provision to do so, but someone in the legislature secretly removed it from the final bill that Governor Bill Haslam eventually signed. In response, Tennessee Right to Life called on Haslam to keep his campaign promise not to fund Planned Parenthood if elected to  office.

“Ultimately, Nashville’s public health department agreed to accept all available Title X “family planning” funds for the Davidson County population — thereby diverting funds from the Planned Parenthood affiliate,” Harris explained. “But in Memphis the local health department director, Yvonne Madlock, has refused to similarly rule out disbursing tax dollars to Planned Parenthood of Memphis and, while the state is no longer directly subsidizing the abortion business, the Shelby County Health Department continues to sub-contract with Planned Parenthood on a month-to-month basis.”

Madlock, Harris explained, has specified that bids from the abortion facility will be considered for future contracts for such ‘family planning’ services.

“Tennessee Right to Life continues to call on our pro-life Governor to appoint a new Commissioner of Health who shares his commitment to protecting human life,” Harris told LifeNews.

“As long as a pro-abortion ally fills that key post in state government, Tennesseans are going to continue being forced to fund abortion facilities in our state,” Harris said, referring to Tennessee Commissioner of Health Susan Cooper, who has opposed efforts to divert funds from Planned Parenthood and who is a hold-over from the previous pro-abortion administration of former two-term Governor Phil Bredesen, a Democrat.

ACTION: Contact Governor Bill Haslam at https://www.tn.gov/help to complain about the appointment.