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Kentucky Senate Votes To Defund Planned Parenthood

Senate President Robert Stivers
Legislative Research Commission
Senate President Robert Stivers

The state Senate on Tuesday approved striking from the budget a portion of the state's contribution to Planned Parenthood, with the bill's supporters pointing to the Louisville branch's recent efforts to begin providing abortions.

The bill is largely symbolic. The state gets about $5.6 million in federal Title X funds, which are supposed to go to family planning and reproductive health programs. About $331,000 of that went to Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. But in December, the Louisville Planned Parenthood branch opted out of Title X funding.

State Sen. Max Wise, a Republican from Campbellsville, said he introduced the bill in reaction to undercover videos allegedly showing Planned Parenthood officials negotiating the sale of fetal organs.

“Until more significant changes can be made at the federal level, we must do what we can to keep public funds from groups like Planned Parenthood, which callously profit from death,” Wise said.

Planned Parenthood has denied the allegation, saying the video was highly edited. Two people involved in its production were indicted last month.

Last week, a new Planned Parenthood clinic in Louisville announced it had begun providing abortions — the first time the health services non-profit has offered the service in Kentucky.

The service ended quickly.

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin said the Planned Parenthood branch was operating without a license. Letters between Planned Parenthood and former Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration show that the organization had received approval to begin conducting the procedure, but had never received a license.

The Inspector General’s Office denied the license application on Jan. 28, saying documentation of an emergency hospital and ambulance service were deficient.

Betty Cockrum, president of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said 23 abortions were performed at the facility between Jan. 21 and Jan. 28, when the governor told them stop providing abortion services.

State Sen. Whitney Westerfield, a Hopkinsville Republican, said that the Louisville Planned Parenthood issue was an example of why the state needs to pull funds from the organization.

“I hope somebody’s looking at how those got approved in the first place,” Westerfield said. “Because the blood or tissue or whatever they want to call from those 23 procedures is on their hands, and I hope somebody’s looking at that.”

State Sen. Reggie Thomas, a Democrat from Lexington, said that Planned Parenthood serves a profound public purpose.

“Planned Parenthood serves women who would not normally be able to get or obtain the family planning services that we value in this society,” Thomas said.

The bill comes amid a fervor of anti-abortion bills navigating through the Capitol.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg, said he wasn't sure whether the defund Planned Parenthood bill would gain support in the House.

Republicans appear to have electoral momentum following Bevin's victory last year, and the GOP has narrowed the Democrats' lead in the House to 50-46. And it's an election year.

"I don't know how it'll do over here. I haven't really gauged that yet," Stumbo said.

The Democratic-led House, which used to block anti-abortion bills, approved an "informed consent" bill last week that would require abortion-seekers to have an in-person or video meeting with a doctor 24 hours prior to the procedure.

On Tuesday, a contingent of Senate Republicans marched the “informed consent” abortion bill to Bevin’s desk, demanding that he sign it on the spot. Bevin readily signed the legislation.

The bill was the first Bevin signed into law.