Should public tax dollars support state agencies that promote
abortion and homosexuality? That is the question that Deborah Burton, a
doctoral candidate at the University of Kentucky, is asking about the
Kentucky Commission on Women (KCW).
The KCW, a 33-year-old state agency which operates from the
governor’s office, acts as an informational clearinghouse. It also monitors
state legislation, and partners with other organizations on projects
related to Kentucky women. But Burton and others contend that information
provided by KCW promotes abortion and other radical causes through their web
page resources and list serve.
"My concern is that the governor's office is funding all
their activities and calling it representative of all Kentucky women....
while repressing freedom of speech for all the Kentucky women who do not
agree with their points of view," Burton said.
At issue is a KCW e-mail list serve, which Burton says has a
decidedly liberal agenda. Among them are statements calling Lexington
OB-GYN, Dr. David Hager a religious extremist because of his pro-life views,
one promoting anti-war protests, and yet another inaccurately accusing The
Family Foundation of disseminating "false information about emergency
List serve members are allowed to respond to posts and
provide additional information or comments — that is, unless
they happen to differ from KCW orthodoxy according to Diane Cape, a
family-liaison worker in Prestonsburg. According to Cape, KCW’s
editorializing on abortion troubles her. Responses addressing abortion are
labeled by KCW staff as either anti-choice or pro-choice. "I find it
unacceptable that a public list serve is used as a 'pulpit' for one viewpoint
and not open to all," Cape said. "I don’t think they are representing all
Betsy Nowland-Curry, executive director for the KCW for the
past two and a half years, said the majority of the 800 to 1000 subscribers
to the list serve are pro-choice. "KCW has historically been a pro-choice
organization, only because Roe v. Wade is the law," Nowland-Curry
said. "We have always said that abortion should be rare, legal and safe."
According to Nowland-Curry, KCW’s annual budget is $260,000, which
supports her salary and a staff of three others.
Nowland-Curry said KCW intends to serve all Kentucky
women with pertinent information, but Shari Levy of Georgetown disagrees.
Levy, who works at the University of Kentucky medical school, said a number
of her comments and alternative posts were censored. In an e-mail,
Nowland-Curry accused her of being "confrontational" and "antagonistic,"
and suggested she had "a lot of free time at work" and e-mailed Levy’s
KCW endorses and opposes legislation through action alerts
that have called for women to support research cloning and special rights for
homosexuals. Ironically, though, KCW officially opposed fetal homicide
legislation, which would protect pregnant women from criminal or negligent
actions that result in their unborn child’s death.
In early March, KCW list serve sent out a pro-choice alert,
calling for women to oppose a bill that would have created "Choose Life"
license plates and designated some of the revenue to pregnancy care centers.
A number of pro-life subscribers objected but none were more outraged than
the bill’s sponsor — State Senator Jack Westwood (R-Erlanger).
"It is drastically unfair that they use my tax dollars to
defeat my bill," said Westwood, who is not aware of any other
government-sponsored agencies ranking or promoting legislation.
Westwood’s bill ultimately failed.
KCW joined a pro-abortion coalition called One Voice for
Choice — a Louisville event staged on April 2 to support abortion
rights. Speakers included Sarah Weddington, Roe v. Wade attorney, U.S.
Rep. Connie Morella, an outspoken abortion advocate, and Frances
Kissling, founder of Catholics for a Free Choice. Coalition partners included
the ACLU of Kentucky's Reproductive Freedom Project, the Fairness Campaign,
the Kentucky Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, and the Religious
Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
Curry maintains the KCW is nonpartisan, but some of the
e-mail posts have been partisan according to Ellen Curtin, a professional
editor and mother of four from Northern Kentucky. Curtin brought to
the KCW’s attention three posts that were explicitly anti-Republican. "I am
not a Republican, but I am concerned that the KCW meet its goal of avoiding
partisanship," Curtin said. "And this does not appear to be an objective
source of bipartisan information."
Saying his organization is in the process of drafting an advisory opinion on
KCW, Andy Crocker, attorney for the Executive Branch Ethics
Commission, declined to comment on whether the activities of KCW are legal or
ethical. Regardless of the legality, Deborah Burton said she is opposed to
KCW’s agenda and has a message for Kentucky citizens: "These
are your tax dollars...and if what they are promoting does not agree with
you, then speak up," Burton said.