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Will Kentucky House 'Defund' Planned Parenthood?

The new Planned Parenthood facility in downtown Louisville.
The new Planned Parenthood facility in downtown Louisville.

The state House is poised to take up a bill to defund Planned Parenthood this week, amid a rightward swing in Kentucky politics in which long-awaited legislation limiting abortion rights has already been signed into law.

The bill to divert funds from Planned Parenthood clinics in the state has already passed the Senate. A pro-life contingent in the Democratic-controlled House has already helped get the legislation a first reading; the bill needs three readings before a vote by the full House.

The state Senate on Tuesday approved the legislation, which would block Planned Parenthood from getting about $331,000 in federal Title X funding. The vote is largely symbolic; Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky announced last month that it would stop accepting Title X funds when it began providing abortion services in Louisville.

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, a Republican from Jamestown, said he’ll continue to push the Democratic leadership to take up the bill.

“I think it’s important, and most members, even several members of Democrat caucus, think it’s important enough to give it its second reading now,” Hoover said. “And if they don’t do something, we’ll look at our options on trying to bring it to the floor for a vote.”

The bill is following a path already taken by the “informed consent” abortion bill that was signed by the governor last week. That law will require women seeking an abortion to have an in-person or live video meeting with a doctor at least 24 hours before the procedure.

House Democrats, which lead the body 50-46, had refused to take up similar legislation for more than a decade. But facing a shrinking majority in the state House, Democrats succumbed to Republican demands that the bill be heard and approved. It passed the House 92-3.

After a furtive committee meeting that resulted in an amendment to permit the live-video option, the House approved the legislation overwhelmingly. The Senate followed, and Republican Gov. Matt Bevin signed it into law.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg, said he has doubts about the Planned Parenthood funding bill.

“There’s a process in place to look at these bills to make sure there aren’t unintended consequences,” Stumbo said.

The bill has been assigned to the Appropriations and Revenue Committee and might be heard Tuesday morning.

Hoover said if the bill isn't heard during the committee, he might again resort to a vote to suspend the rules and have it moved to the floor.

Planned Parenthood funding became a hot-button issue nationally last year after an anti-abortion group released undercover videos allegedly showing officials at the agency negotiating the sale of fetal organs.

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

The rhetoric over abortion rights became more heated last month, when Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky briefly began providing abortion services at its new facility in Louisville. The Bevin administration has ordered the Planned Parenthood branch to stop providing the procedure amid a dispute over the organization's abortion license application.

And there's another factor in the legislation's prospects: The makeup of the chamber will change after March 8, when four special elections will decide which party controls four vacant seats. The result could shift control of the chamber from Democrat to Republican.