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Kentucky Continues to Fail on Reproductive Health

Sexual education in public schools in Kentucky does not require information on contraception. (Nate Grigg/Flickr)
Sexual education in public schools in Kentucky does not require information on contraception. (Nate Grigg/Flickr)
February 5, 2019

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A new report demonstrates the divide between states that prioritize reproductive health and those that do not - and Kentucky is among of the latter.

The Population Institute's annual report card on reproductive health and rights gave 19 states, including the Commonwealth, a failing grade. The findings are not a surprise to Marcie Crim, executive director at the Kentucky Health Justice Network.

"Kentucky is a birth-control desert, meaning that our publicly funded clinics are not offering all forms of contraception. That's a problem,” Crim said. “And 76 out of our 120 counties don't even have an OB-Gyn. So we're just a mess in Kentucky in terms of reproductive health."

Kentucky scored poorly for mandating abstinence as part of the sexual education in public schools, while not requiring contraception or HIV education. The state also has no laws affirming a woman's right to emergency contraception in an emergency room.

Overall, the country received a "D-minus," with the research noting declining overall reproductive health and rights, and increasing disparity between states. Twenty-two states received a "B-minus" or higher, while the other 27 received a "D" or lower.

Kentucky fared well in the report for its teen pregnancy rate, the number of unintended pregnancies, and for allowing minors to consent to contraceptive services. However, Crim pointed out that just because it's permitted, that doesn't mean it's accessible.

"This person was 19, 20 years old, went to go see their family doctor to get on birth control and the family doctor refused to give them a prescription because the doctor said, 'You're not married, and it's against my beliefs to give you birth control,’” Crim said. “And so that's obviously a huge problem."

Abortion access is another problem area, with the report showing that about 3-in-4 women live in a county without an abortion clinic. Kentucky also has several laws that make it unnecessarily difficult to obtain an abortion, and Crim said lawmakers are trying to pass more.

"It feels like there's an overall wish to dominate Kentuckians' bodies without actually doing the research into how you would bring down numbers of abortions through access to sex education and contraception,” she said. “It is to just stop abortions and damn the consequences."

The report added a "minus" to Kentucky's failing grade because the state's "Choose Life" license plates fund anti-choice organizations.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY