FRANKFORT (AP) — Kentucky’s anti-abortion lawmakers targeted Planned Parenthood on Thursday, renewing their push for legislation to put the organization at the end of the line for family planning funds.
The measure would set up a tiered priority system for distributing federal family planning dollars, with Planned Parenthood clinics in the bottom category. The bill was approved by Republican members of the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee.
But its implementation depends on Congress reversing Obama administration action blocking states from withholding those funds from Planned Parenthood affiliates.
“To be sure to protect the commonwealth from a needless lawsuit, I have included language stating that the bill’s tier system doesn’t become effective until these federal regulations are repealed,” said Sen. Max Wise, the measure’s lead sponsor.
Planned Parenthood supporters said the organization has voluntarily stopped accepting those family planning funds for its Kentucky operations. But Wise, R-Campbellsville, said he hopes his bill would cut off that funding source if Planned Parenthood seeks the dollars again.
Nationally, Planned Parenthood has long drawn the ire of anti-abortion conservatives, who contend that funding to the organization helps subsidize abortions.
Federal dollars don’t pay for abortions, but Planned Parenthood is reimbursed by Medicaid for other services. Wise said his bill would not affect those Medicaid payments.
Planned Parenthood does not provide abortion services in Kentucky. The state’s lone abortion provider is EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville.
The Senate panel heard from a woman who said she received compassionate, thorough care at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Kentucky. Each year, thousands of women in the state seek out Planned Parenthood for their reproductive health care and other services, supporters said.
“This isn’t about getting a routine examination,” said Sage Martin, 26, of Louisville. “It’s about having a safe place that makes patients feel valued, respected and heard. We all deserve to find a light that makes our journey possible. And defunding Planned Parenthood takes that light away from people like me.”
Planned Parenthood official Tamarra Wieder said lawmakers were using the abortion issue “as a scapegoat to deny other people health care.”
The bulk of the organization’s work includes Pap smears and HIV tests, but it offers many other services including smoking cessation and screenings for diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol, she said.
Wise said it would always be difficult to ensure that family planning funds are “walled off” from any abortion-related services that Planned Parenthood might provide.
The bill also would prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving state or local funds.
Under Kentucky law, public funds cannot be used to obtain or pay for an abortion.
The bill is the latest anti-abortion proposal to surface in Kentucky’s Republican-run legislature. Two abortion-related measures were passed and quickly signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin in the early days of this year’s legislative session.
One requires women to get an ultrasound and have the fetal images described to them before having an abortion. That law has drawn a legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union. The other new law bans abortions in Kentucky after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless the life of the mother is in danger.
The Senate legislation is Senate Bill 8.