LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A proposal aimed at eliminating public funding for Planned Parenthood won the support of an Arkansas Senate committee Wednesday, a move that the group warned could cut off money to doctors, domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers.
The Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced the proposal, which would ban the state from awarding grants to entities that perform abortions or abortion referrals. The legislation by Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, would not apply to funding available through the Medicaid program.
Stubblefield said the bill was aimed primarily at cutting off grants Planned Parenthood receives for sex education in Little Rock area schools. Planned Parenthood said it provides information about preventing sexually transmitted diseases to 2,000 people through the grants.
"I don't agree with their goals, and I don't feel like they're doing the best job in terms of educating our youth," Stubblefield said after the vote.
But Planned Parenthood officials warned that the measure would have unintended consequences by cutting off money to any person or entity referring a woman to an abortion provider. The proposal could end research grants to doctors or stop funding to domestic violence shelters if they refer women to abortion providers, the group warned.
The group noted that the bill also would bar the state from awarding grants to "affiliates" of abortion providers, a move that could affect anyone who contracts with Planned Parenthood or entities that provide abortion referrals.
"The Arkansas Legislature is once again putting politics ahead of the health and well-being of Arkansans," Planned Parenthood of the Heartland President and CEO Jill June said in a statement released by the group. "Planned Parenthood is being singled out for political reasons, and the health of families in our state is being jeopardized along the way."
The move comes during a session where the Republican-led Legislature has enacted some of the nation's strictest abortion laws, including one that bans the procedure in most cases 12 weeks into a woman's pregnancy. The American Civil Liberties Union has vowed to sue the state to block that restriction, which will take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.
The Senate could vote on Stubblefield's bill as early as Thursday.
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