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If Kentucky bans abortion, Planned Parenthood CEO says it will still find ways to help women

Deborah Yetter
Louisville Courier Journal

Battling for abortion rights might seem a tough slog, especially in state like Kentucky where lawmakers have enacted multiple restrictions in recent years, including a "trigger law" to outlaw abortion should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade.

But Rebecca Gibron, interim CEO of a six-state Planned Parenthood group that includes Kentucky, said her organization will keep fighting for reproductive rights even as she predicts the Supreme Court will overturn the 1973 landmark case that legalized abortion nationwide.

"If Roe is overturned, if Kentucky goes dark, we will still be here for our patients," Gibron said Wednesday while visiting the Planned Parenthood health clinic in Louisville. "Our responsibility and our concern for our patients is stronger than ever."

Meanwhile, the organization will continue to work against pending legislation in Kentucky it opposes, including House Bill 3, a sweeping measure to impose new regulations on abortion, including medication abortions available early in a pregnancy.

Rebecca Gibron is the interim CEO of the regional Planned Parenthood group that includes Kentucky.

And Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates has organized a political issues committee to raise money and fight a ballot measure in November to amend the state constitution to say there is no right to an abortion in Kentucky.

"We just have to keep up the fight," Gibron said. "Planned Parenthood isn't going to go anywhere."

But neither are abortion opponents in Kentucky, who appear to have momentum on their side, with Republicans holding supermajorities in the state House and Senate and a potential Supreme Court decision that would give control back to states on abortion.

"We're at a pivotal time in our nation's history on many issues," said Addia Wuchner, executive director of Kentucky Right to Life.

Tuesday is "Kentucky Right to Life Day" at the Capitol with a 12:30 p.m. "Yes for Life" rally planned in in the Rotunda.

And Wuchner, a former member of the Kentucky General Assembly, said she hopes the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, leaving states to decide the matter.

"I've always been an advocate for states' rights," she said. "The legislative body is duly elected by the people of the commonwealth to make those laws that affect their citizens."

Addia Wuchner, as a state legislator, in 2018 spoke against a challenge to a state abortion law outside the Federal Courthouse in Louisville.

Wuchner said her organization will continue to support HB 3, the omnibus abortion measure filed by Rep. Nancy Tate, R- Brandenburg, as well as the constitutional amendment voters will decide Nov. 8.

Right to Life, through Yes to Life, a political issues committee, also is raising money to get voters to answer 'yes' on the referendum.

Wuchner said when it comes to abortion, there simply isn't a way to bridge the differences between groups that support abortion rights and those, including Right to Life, who believe life starts at conception.

More:Abortion foes rally in downtown Louisville for Roe V. Wade anniversary

Should abortion become illegal in Kentucky, Wuchner said her organization would work to make sure women know their options.

"For me, choosing to eliminate the life of their child is not an option," she said.

She said she views Planned Parenthood as "misguided" if planning involves "eliminating a child's life."

Planned Parenthood believes women have the right to choose whether to be pregnant, Gibron said.

Planned Parenthood office in Louisville

"Deciding whether to end a pregnancy is a deeply personal decision that should be made between a patient and their medical provider, not extreme politicians in Frankfort," Gibron said.

Planned Parenthood is one of two abortion providers in Kentucky. The other is EMW Women's Surgical Center in Louisville.

If abortion is outlawed in Kentucky, Planned Parenthood will work to assist women who want to terminate pregnancies, Gibron said.

"We are going to help our patients get the care they need and will help them navigate a safe pathway to care in other states," she said.

If Roe is overturned, about 25 states, including Kentucky and Indiana, are expected to outlaw abortion, about 13 through trigger laws similar to Kentucky's, and 12 by enacting legislation to ban it, Gibron said.

Opinion:Here's what's at risk if Kentucky loses safe access to abortion

Gibron, based in Boise, Idaho, is head of a group of six Planned Parenthood state affiliates from Kentucky, Indiana, Hawaii, Alaska, Idaho and western Washington.

The clustering is a result in recent years of smaller organizations joining larger ones to pool staff and resources, she said.

Within her region, Indiana and Idaho stand to lose abortion services along with Kentucky if Roe v. Wade is overturned, she said.

But for now, the procedure remains legal, which is the message Planned Parenthood hopes to spread while awaiting the Supreme Court ruling expected this summer, Gibron said.

Related:House abortion restrictions champion running for Kentucky Supreme Court against incumbent

Her visit to Louisville last week was aimed at meeting with other abortion rights organizations and alerting the community that the Supreme Court could very well end access to the procedure in many states.

"So many people in this country do not believe this is real," she said. "They actually don't believe the Supreme Court is going to overturn it."

But Gibron thinks it's highly likely with the new conservative majority on the high court.

"I think they are going to overturn it," she said. "I think we are going to end up in the dark days before Roe."

Reach Deborah Yetter at dyetter@courier-journal.com. Find her on Twitter at @d_yetter. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.courier-journal.com/subscribe