Politics & Government

Bill to block funding for Planned Parenthood approved by Senate panel

State Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, says his Senate Bill 8 to block funding to Planned Parenthood is a “small, but important measure to protect unborn life.”
State Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, says his Senate Bill 8 to block funding to Planned Parenthood is a “small, but important measure to protect unborn life.” jbrammer@herald-leader.com

Following the lead of several other states, Kentucky lawmakers appear poised to make sure the state’s chapter of Planned Parenthood, a national organization that has become a symbol of scorn for abortion opponents, has a difficult time getting taxpayers’ dollars.

A state Senate committee voted 7-3 Thursday in favor of a bill to prioritize how approximately $300,000 in federal funding for family planning is distributed in Kentucky, putting Planned Parenthood at the end of the receiving line.

The sponsor of Senate Bill 8, Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, said his bill would direct the money to public and nonprofit groups, such as health departments, that provide comprehensive health services in addition to family planning services. Wise also said the legislation would prohibit Planned Parenthood and similar entities from receiving state or local money.

He said the measure wouldn’t take effect until Congress repeals regulations that the Obama administration implemented to prevent states from prioritizing family planning funds. The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the issue soon.

Planned Parenthood of Kentucky recently withdrew from accepting federal funding, but Wise said, “There is currently nothing in law to prohibit them from, in the future, getting access to” the funding.

Tamara Wieder, director of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Kentucky, told the Senate committee that her organization provides “quality care and compassion” for women. “We should not be creating barriers to health care,” she said.

Danielle Berera, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Louisville, said she would not consider Kentucky her “long-term home” if Wise’s bill becomes law, because it would hurt women’s health care in the state.

Wise claimed that Planned Parenthood affiliates across the nation performed 323,653 abortions in 2014 but made only 1,880 adoption referrals.

The Planned Parenthood Center in Louisville does not perform abortions. There is only one licensed abortion clinic in Kentucky — EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville.

Federal and state laws do not allow tax dollars to be used to pay for abortion, but Wise said concern about Planned Parenthood intensified in 2015, when undercover videos raised questions about whether it sells unborn baby parts. Planned Parenthood said the videos were selectively edited and that any sale of tissue or organs was not “a revenue stream.”

“Is it realistic to think that Planned Parenthood, when providing family planning counseling, doesn’t have a vested, financial interest in directing women toward abortion?” asked Wise.

He also said it’s difficult to ensure that federal family planning funds given to Planned Parenthood are walled off from other expenses. For example, he questioned whether the funding would cover a portion of the fixed costs of abortion-related staff and facilities.

Three Democrats on the committee voted against the bill.

Sen. Julian Carroll of Frankfort said many county health departments are financed inadequately and that taking on more responsibility for family planning would create further financial problems. Sen. Denise Harper Angel of Louisville said she didn’t understand the urge to take away services for women.

The bill now goes to the full Senate for its consideration.

Jack Brammer: 502-227-1198, @BGPolitics