By Bob Allen
The Kentucky Baptist Convention’s top leader is urging state lawmakers to pass legislation to defund Planned Parenthood in the coming year.
Paul Chitwood, executive director of the state’s largest religious organization, voiced support on Kentucky Today, a convention-owned news website, for pre-filed legislation barring the use of public funds for “abortion services.”
“No greater human rights tragedy exists in the world, or in Kentucky, than the daily slaughter of tens of thousands of unborn babies,” Chitwood said.
“Abortion services” defined in the bill include referrals to abortion providers and to those who provide “counseling, advice, written materials or other information that encourages or promotes abortion.”
One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Stan Lee (R-Lexington), said the intent is to defund Planned Parenthood in response to undercover videos by the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress raising questions about the procurement of fetal body parts for medical research.
“The fact that the tax dollars of Christians are used to pay for abortion is unthinkable,” Chitwood said. “That can be stopped in Kentucky and I’m praying that our legislators will exercise the necessary courage to defend the right of conscience for their constituents.”
The proposed legislation would ban the direct or indirect use of public funds to support an affiliate of any organization that provides abortion services. It does not apply to funding for hospitals, medical schools or universities.
Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, says the loss of government funding would jeopardize health care for thousands of patients, especially low-income women.
According to its 2015 annual report, the Indiana/Kentucky Planned Parenthood affiliate received about 12 percent of its $15 million budget from government contracts and grants.
By comparison, Sunrise Children’s Services, an agency of the Kentucky Baptist Convention formerly known as Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, receives about $26 million a year — 85 percent of its budget — from government sources.
Kentucky Today, a website operated by the state convention’s communications office, recently added a Frankfort bureau as part of a strategy — along with hiring of a lobbyist and Capitol chaplain — to increase influence of the state’s 2,400 Southern Baptist churches on public policy in the state capital.
They expect a warm reception from a new governor, Matt Bevin, an evangelical Christian and major financial donor to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.
Roger Alford, a former bivocational pastor and Associated Press correspondent who was elected KBC communications director in 2013, is editor of Kentucky Today, a source for both daily state, national and world news and denominational news geared toward the estimated 1 million Kentucky Baptists.
Chitwood has described Kentucky Today as “a complement” to Western Recorder, a newspaper that has served Kentucky Baptists for 190 years.