LITTLE ROCK — A Senate committee on Wednesday endorsed legislation that would cut off two state grants to Planned Parenthood.
Murry Newbern, a policy analyst and lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, told the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee that the organization receives about $70,000 annually in federal grants awarded by state Department of Health to provide educational programs on sexually transmitted disease prevention in some Little Rock schools.
But Newbern said approving the legislation would cause a number of unforeseen problems aside from cutting off grant funding to Planned Parenthood.
Under Senate Bill 818 by Sen. Gary Stubbfield, R-Branch, would bar state grants to any entity that performs abortions or provides abortion referrals, contracts with a person or entity that performs abortions or abortion referrals, or is an affiliate of a person or entity that performs abortions or referrals.
A doctor who who provides information about abortion to a patient or a domestic violence center or rape crisis center that provides educational materials about abortion could lose state grant funding under the bill, Newbern said.
"No law has ever been enacted that would punish an entity that has nothing to do with abortion, or even health care, just because they do business with an entity that provides referrals for abortion," Newbern said. "The poorly drafted language in the bill could implicate who contracts with Planned Parenthood, as well as any entity that contracts with an entity that refers for abortion."
Stubblefield said the grants Planned Parenthood receives through the Health Department are awarded competitively and that organizations other than Planned Parenthood are ready and able to provide the services.
"We are not eliminating anything," he said.
Jerry Cox, president of Family Council, said the bill "would prohibit grant money that flows to the health department from going to organizations that provide abortions."
The bill was endorsed on a voice vote and goes to the Senate.