Politics

Lawmakers have given initial approval to a plan to “defund” Kentucky’s Planned Parenthood locations in Lexington and Louisville by putting the organization at the back of the line for federal family planning dollars.

Bill sponsor Sen. Max Wise said the organization had a “notorious history as an abortion provider” and said he filed the bill in reaction to undercover videos allegedly showing Planned Parenthood officials negotiating the sale of fetal organs — allegations denied by Planned Parenthood and later debunked.

“I come before you today thankfully more optimistic about the prospects of protecting unborn life than I was last year when the committee heard this similar bill,” Wise said.

Neither of Kentucky’s Planned Parenthood locations provide abortions. The only abortion provider in the state is EMW surgical center in Louisville.

The legislation would create a three-tier system for the state to prioritize federal Title X dollars. The top priority would go to local community health departments and federally qualified health centers, the second to private organizations that provide comprehensive health services, and if there were any remaining funds they would go to the third tier — Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky opted out of the funding in late 2015, but Wise said the legislation would ensure that Planned Parenthood wouldn’t be able to regain funding in the state.

A similar bill passed out of the state Senate last year but was never taken up by the House of Representatives, which was controlled by Democrats at the time.

Texas, Kansas and Ohio have already enacted similar measures.

Sen. Denise Harper Angel, a Democrat from Louisville, said the bill was unnecessary.

“With all the issues facing Kentucky, I don’t understand why we spend our time just taking away services for the women of Kentucky,” Harper Angel said.

The legislature passed and Gov. Matt Bevin signed two anti-abortion bills into law so far this year. One would ban abortions after the 19th week of pregnancy and the other would require doctors to perform and describe an ultrasound on women seeking abortions — that law is currently being challenged in federal court.

Before leaving office, President Barack Obama issued an executive order prohibiting states from withholding Title X grants from Planned Parenthood.

Wise said his bill would only go into effect once Congress repeals the executive order, which is expected to be soon.

This story has been updated.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.