Matt Bevin Begins Promised Crusade Against Reproductive Justice In KY

Matt Bevin ordered a Planned Parenthood in Louisville, Kentucky to stop performing abortions this week. The facility had begun offering the procedure to patients just eight days prior on January 21.

The new Kentucky governor told reporters that Planned Parenthood was illegally performing abortions in the state of Kentucky.

“There is no tolerance whatsoever for people in the commonwealth of Kentucky disregarding the law,” he said. “They are unlicensed, they are doing it knowingly, and they are going to be brought to justice on this front.”

Bevin also told reporters that the Planned Parenthood in Louisville had not been licensed to perform the procedure and the cease-and-desist letter that Planned Parenthood received from Bevin’s office stated that their applications for a license were “deficient for multiple reasons.”

Officials at Planned Parenthood were quick to respond.

“In a letter Friday to Kentucky officials, Planned Parenthood claimed the organization had the state’s approval when it began offering abortion services Jan. 21 at the clinic on South Seventh Street.

Abortion services began ‘only after receiving assurance from your office, in emails dated Dec. 1 and Dec. 7, that it would be appropriate while we await a survey,’ said Suzannah Wilson Overholt, chief operating officer for Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, or PPINK, in a letter to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.”

Bevin’s campaign was filled with all sorts of nonsense promises around his anti-abortion stance such as promises to stop federal funding for abortion and to defund Planned Parenthood in Kentucky because of his belief that the reproductive health organization was profiting by performing these services. During a question-and-answer session during his campaign for governor, Bevin made clear his position on Planned Parenthood.

“As part of the Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky chapter, Planned Parenthood locations in Kentucky financially benefit from the fungible dollars received from abortion services and their harvesting and trafficking of fetal tissue from abortions…

I have pledged to defund Planned Parenthood. Federal taxpayer dollars appropriated to Planned Parenthood flow through the governor’s administration. As governor, I will direct my Secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services not to distribute federal taxpayer dollars from that department to Planned Parenthood clinics. Instead, I will redirect these funds to other health clinics who do not provide abortion services or return them to the federal government.”

Of course, there are many issues with Bevin’s statements, but a few in particular are glaring.

First, the Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, already restricts federal funding for abortions except in extreme cases. However, Bevin’s use of the word “fungible” in his statement means that Bevin is opposed to Planned Parenthood receiving any federal funding as long as the clinics perform abortion services at all.

Since federal funding through Medicaid covers some vital and necessary services for women’s reproductive health, Bevin is saying, that money frees up funds that can be directed toward the opposed services. Regardless, federal funding for abortion services does not occur in Kentucky or any other state except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the pregnant woman is in danger. Planned Parenthood of Kentucky and Indiana also say they receive no state funding at all.

Second, when Bevin campaigned for governor in the state of Kentucky, no Planned Parenthood facility in the state offered abortion services. Currently, these services are only offered by two clinics in Kentucky, one in each of its largest two cities: Louisville and Lexington.  Those clinics are EMW Women’s Surgical Centers, both of which also offer contraceptive services, and neither receive any federal funding.

Third, and most importantly, there is no evidence that Planned Parenthood has profited in any way from the harvesting of fetal tissue, despite GOP talking-points to the contrary. This blatant falsehood has been debunked numerous times by various media outlets, but facts seem to matter little to the GOP these days, particularly when it comes to reproductive justice, broadly, and Planned Parenthood, specifically.

“Several Republican presidential candidates have claimed that Planned Parenthood is ‘profiting’ from abortions. But the full, unedited video they cite as evidence shows a Planned Parenthood executive repeatedly saying its clinics want to cover their costs, not make money, when donating fetal tissue from abortions for scientific research.

Four experts in the field of human tissue procurement told us the price range discussed in the video — $30 to $100 per patient — represents a reasonable fee. “There’s no way there’s a profit at that price,” said Sherilyn J. Sawyer, the director of Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s “biorepository.”

Republicans made their claims following the release of a secretly recorded video showing Deborah Nucatola, the senior director of medical services at Planned Parenthood, discussing the procurement of fetal tissues when conducting abortions. The edited video, released July 14 by an anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress, leaves the impression that Nucatola is talking about Planned Parenthood affiliates making money from fetal tissue. But the edited video ignores other things Nucatola said that contradict that idea.”

Finally, largely because of some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country as well as the inaccessibility of services in a state with 4.134 million people and only two abortion clinics – making abortion all but inaccessible to its poorest residents in outlying rural counties – Kentucky falls well below the national average of women who obtain abortion services. In 2011, for instance, 18% of all pregnancies ended in abortion. In Kentucky, only 6% of pregnancies ended in abortion the same year. This is a fight that pro-lifers in the state already appear to be winning, and further restrictions could make this procedure, which has been legal for 40 years, completely inaccessible.

Reproductive justice was sorely lacking in affordability and accessibility in Kentucky before Matt Bevin became the state’s governor, and the outlook on progress that benefits women doesn’t appear to be changing for the better anytime soon.

Featured image via Flikr by American Life League

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