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Planned Parenthood: Polarizing Opinions in KY

Pro-choice groups in Kentucky rally behind Planned Parenthood as the nonprofit organization faces the threat of losing its federal funding. Credit: istock.
Pro-choice groups in Kentucky rally behind Planned Parenthood as the nonprofit organization faces the threat of losing its federal funding. Credit: istock.
August 5, 2015

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Senate Republicans, including Kentucky's Rand Paul, did not have the votes this week to defund Planned Parenthood. The failed effort to block $500 million in federal support for the reproductive health organization comes as Planned Parenthood faces a backlash from an anti-abortion group's release of undercover videos.

The group alleges that Planned Parenthood is making money off the sale of fetal tissue, a claim the organization denies.

Derek Selznick, Reproductive Freedom Project director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, said a loss of federal dollars would hurt vital services such as contraception and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.

"Especially in a state like Kentucky, which is facing its own heroin crisis, HIV testing is absolutely crucial," he said. "Catching cervical cancer early with those pap smears. These are vital services that the community needs, and that would be lost."

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky operates health centers in Lexington and Louisville as well as in New Albany, Ind. Those centers saw more than 6,700 patients last year. Planned Parenthood does not operate abortion clinics in Kentucky, but does elsewhere.

Jason Hall, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, said Planned Parenthood should be defunded and the money redirected to what he calls "mainstream facilities" such as health departments and community health centers.

"So there's no need to provide those services through Planned Parenthood, given the questions about their practices that have been raised," he said, "but, more importantly, the fact that they are the nation's largest abortion provider."

However, Selznick noted the wide-ranging reach of Planned Parenthood, an organization he said people trust.

"The sheer amount of people that have used Planned Parenthood in their lifetime. I mean, one in five women will use Planned Parenthood or has used Planned Parenthood," he said. "Those are incredible numbers."

The president of Kentucky's Planned Parenthood affiliate, Betty Cockrum, said losing federal funds would have an especially devastating impact on those with low incomes and those who live in communities underserved medically.

Both of Kentucky's U.S. senators have expressed their outrage with Planned Parenthood and the desire to strip it of federal dollars. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell voted "no" on Monday on the bill to defund the organization. He said that will allow him, under Senate rules, to bring the bill back up for a vote later.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY