Bill looking to cut funding for Planned Parenthood heads to Senate floor

01/21/2016 11:00 PM

FRANKFORT — Bills that would limit funding for Planned Parenthood and make selling fetal tissue illegal in Kentucky were sent to the Senate floor on Thursday.

Senate Bill 7, which would set a priority system to fund state and federal family planning services, and Senate Bill 25, which would make the sale of fetal tissue from an aborted fetus a class C felony, passed the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee on a 9-1 vote.

Both bills came in response to controversial undercover videos “that clearly showed that Planned Parenthood abortion clinics were selling aborted fetal parts for medical research,” said Sen. Max Wise, the bills’ sponsor. Planned Parenthood is allowed to cover costs through the sale of aborted fetal tissue but not profit from the practice.

SB 7 would prohibit state and local dollars to clinics that provide abortion services, which includes counseling patients on the procedure. It would also establish a three-tier system for federal family planning dollars, putting public health departments and federally qualified health centers in the top tier, followed by nonpublic entities that provide primary, preventative and family-planning services and, lastly, groups the focus solely on family planning.

Federal and state laws already outlaw publicly funded abortions, and Wise said SB 7 would not affect Planned Parenthood’s receipt of Medicaid dollars.

“While that is very regrettable, it is the current legal landscape that we must work within,” said Wise, R-Campbellsville.

The bill, if passed, could impact $331,300 in federal Title X funding for Planned Parenthood locations in Louisville and Lexington, according to figures previously provided. by the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The state receives $5.6 million in federal Title X money each year, an analysis of SB 7 shows.

“We’ve got a state and we’ve got a large number of constituents that want to see something done with Planned Parenthood, and I think this is an avenue we can look to proceed, which would make our constituents and our state step up,” Wise said. “We’ve got Ohio, and we’ve got Texas, and we’ve got Kansas that are already looking to have done this, and they’ve not felt anything in the federal court battles.”

Derek Selznick, reproductive freedom project director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, said the version of SB 7 that passed Thursday’s committee goes “completely beyond the scope of anything we’ve seen.” Health departments and rape crisis centers could be deemed abortion services providers under the bill, he said.

“This is less an attack on Planned Parenthood. who currently only has one Title X contract in Lexington,” Selznick told reporters. “It is more an attack on public health departments throughout our commonwealth.”

Sen. Perry Clark was the lone dissenter on SB 7 and SB 25. He called videos produced last year by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress showing Planned Parenthood officials casually discussing the sale of fetal tissue “a fraud.”

“That was set up, that was cut, that was edited, and that is not what happened,” said Clark, D-Louisville. “That was what was put out there to agitate everyone.”

Sen. Whitney Westerfield said even without the videos, he’d support codifying the funding provisions in SB 7 “to make sure the money’s as restricted as possible.”

“I’m frustrated that the Title X regulations trip us up and we can’t outright prohibit it, but we’ve come as close to that as law allows us to do here in Kentucky,” said Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, declined to speculate on the bill’s prospects if it reaches his chamber because he had not reviewed the legislation.

Wise said he believed the Center for Medical Progress videos were not heavily edited before their release as Clark said.

Selznick disagreed, noting lawsuits filed against the group by Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation.

The Center for Medical Progress has been “thoroughly discredited” since release of the undercover videos, he said.

“I think theses attacks are horrible, and from a personal standpoint I’ll also just point out I worked with one of the people that was on those videos,” Selznick said. “To me this is very personal, and I can attest to her character.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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