FRANKFORT, Ky. — Pro-choice advocates are speaking out against a new piece of legislation.
House Bill 142, sponsored by Rep. Lynn Bechler, R-Marion, would create a so-called “gag rule” which would take away public agency funds from “any entity, organization, or individual that performs, induces, refers for, or counsels in favor of abortions”. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kentucky says this is the piece of the legislation they are most concerned with at the moment.
“It has incredibly sweeping implications, it’s a clergy gag rule, it’s a social worker gag rule,” said Tamarra Wieder, PPAIK Public Affairs and Policy Director. “It infringes on freedom of speech and access to information when people are their most vulnerable and it’s unacceptable.”
The President of the Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice also expressed concern with faith communities having public dollars taken away for counseling perishioners.
“Such a prohibition is morally and ethically unacceptable,” said Wayne Gnatuk. “I speak against House Bill 142 and I pray for its defeat this legislative session.”
Bill sponsor Rep.Lynn Bechler says this bill only applies to public agency funds — not any private funds so it wouldn’t impact the faith community. He also says it’s not in violation of any federal law.
The bill would take away public funds for counseling in favor of abortions but not for discussing what the consequences of an abortion are nor does it prohibit the discussion of the significance of pregnancy, Bechler says.
Weider says since faith communites work with nonprofits in various different configurations to provide social services within their communities they would be impacted this legislation.
“Under HB 142, as a condition of receiving any public agency funds for services that could be completely unrelated to the provision of or advocacy about abortion, people would have to agree not only to not provide abortions in their activities separate from agency work, but also to not even counsel anyone in favor of abortion,” Weider said.
The legislation has exceptions for Medicaid funding and if the mother’s life is at risk.
Another law Planned Parenthood is concerned with is House Bill 62 which would create a new section of the Kentucky Constitution to state that the constitution does not secure or protect a right to an abortion or funding of an abortion.
Since it would change the constitution it would have to be ratified by the voters of Kentucky.
Planned Parenthood supported Gov. Andy Beshear during the election and despite his spot in the Governor’s Mansion’s Weider says women’s reproductive health is still in jeopardy with the Republican-led legislature.
“I believe it will be extremely different here the next four years, however, it doesn’t change the makeup of the General Assembly and we know they will override a veto if he so chooses,” she said.