Kentucky_state_capitol_buildingAs the current session of Kentucky’s General Assembly is set to end Tuesday at midnight, a bill allowing an income tax check-off for individuals donating to trust funds devoted to pediatric cancer research, rape crisis centers and the Kentucky Special Olympics is in jeopardy of failing. Though Senate Bill 82 passed unanimously in both chambers, a House amendment adding the tax write-off for rape crisis centers has caused Kentucky Right to Life to voice concerns to senators, fearing the state is promoting abortion.

Margie Montgomery, executive director of Kentucky Right to Life, tells Insider Louisville the organization has contacted legislators in opposition to the House’s version, saying it does not clearly define what a rape crisis center is and that the state would be promoting emergency contraception and abortion.

“Often this kind of thing can encompass Planned Parenthood, which is a pro-abortion organization that involves killing children,” says Montgomery. “We haven’t been able to get a clear definition from them.”

However, Gretchen Hunt, an attorney for the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, points out that the language of the House bill is quite clear, and it has nothing to do with abortion, contraception or Planned Parenthood.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services would administer the trust fund and pass it through the KASAP — just as they do all state budget funds — to rape crisis centers, one in each of their 13 districts throughout the state. The services provided to victims of sexual violence in each district is regulated equally by state law and does not involve medical care or delivering emergency contraception. While hospitals in the state may provide such contraception, rape crisis center advocates are merely contacted by the hospital in order to help support the victims.

Told that Louisville’s rape crisis center — the Center for Women and Families — does not dispense emergency contraception and is not affiliated with Planned Parenthood, Montgomery says she has never heard of CFW and still wonders if it would send money to Planned Parenthood. Though they offer emergency contraception, Planned Parenthood does not offer abortion services in Kentucky.

SB 82 lead sponsor Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, and the spokesman for the Republican Senate leadership have not yet returned calls seeking comment on whether the Senate will vote on the House’s version of the bill before the General Assembly adjourns its 2015 session Tuesday night.

Hunt says the tax write-off for a rape crisis center trust fund would be another useful tool to help victims in Kentucky — 14 percent of whom are children — where nearly 48 percent of women have experienced sexual violence.

“Our rape crisis centers are a vital part of our community response to children and adults affected by sexual violence,” says Hunt. “Due to more public attention to sexual violence on our college campuses, in our schools and in the military, as well as the growing recognition of sex trafficking, our centers are experiencing an increasing demand for services. The tax check-off box will help our centers to serve all families impacted by sexual violence in the commonwealth and create innovative programs to prevent sexual violence.”

***** UPDATE 8:23 p.m. *****

SB 82 lead sponsor Sen. Max Wise contacted IL to say that the fate of the bill is currently “up in the air,” as several Republican senators feel that the concerns of Kentucky Right to Life were valid.

“Right now I don’t know what’s going to happen,” says Wise. “I know we’re in the last hours of the session, so I think it’s going to be up to decisions by leadership on both sides. But I do know there are some concerns with Right to Life, and with that a number of senators may be more hesitant than they were in the past because of that amendment.”

Wise, whose son is a cancer survivor, says he is disappointed that the House attached the amendments to SB 82 in that chamber, saying that he and the advocates who worked for it deserved a clean bill.

“I’m a pro-life supporter,” says Wise. “I have four children and my wife and I are devout Catholics. This should have been a clean bill, and anything involving the other issues is kind of disheartening to see coming out at the end of the session.”

Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]