Missouri Senate tries again to ‘defund’ Planned Parenthood
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The GOP-led Missouri Senate on Wednesday passed a stopgap budget that attempts to strip funding for Planned Parenthood while paying for Medicaid health care for newly eligible patients and pumping billions of dollars in federal funding to schools.
Senators voted 25-7 to pass the legislation, which budgets extra funding for state services through the end of the state fiscal year in June. Because senators amended the plan, it needs another vote of approval in the House before it can go to Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s desk.
Lawmakers are using the budget bill to once again try to block any public funding from going to Planned Parenthood, including clinics that don’t provide abortions.
Abortion opponents in Missouri have for years sought to stop any taxpayer money from going to Planned Parenthood. But legislators struggled with “loopholes” that allowed Planned Parenthood clinics that provide other healthcare to continue receiving funding.
Lawmakers were able to stop money from going to Planned Parenthood in the 2019 fiscal year by forgoing some federal funding to avoid requirements that the clinics be reimbursed if low-income patients go there for birth control, cancer screenings and other preventative care. Missouri instead used state money to pay for those services.
But the Missouri Supreme Court in 2020 ruled that lawmakers violated the constitution by making the policy change through the state budget, forcing the state to reimburse Planned Parenthood for health care provided to Medicaid patients.
Democratic Sen. Jill Schupp said trying to block Planned Parenthood funding through the budget again will lead to another doomed lawsuit. She also warned that doing so would violate federal Medicaid rules and put Missouri at risk of losing billions of dollars in federal funding, along with limiting low-income adults’ access to needed health care.
“It has nothing to do with abortion,” Schupp said. “It has everything to do with women being treated in this state like second-class citizens.”
Senators voted 23-10 along party lines against a proposal by Schupp to strip the language to “defund” Planned Parenthood.
The short-term budget plan also includes extra funding to pay for health care for thousands of newly eligible Medicaid recipients added to the program thanks to a voter-approved constitutional amendment in 2020.
The Republican-led Legislature last year refused to provide funding for Medicaid expansion in an attempt to block it from being implemented. But a judge last year ordered Parson’s administration to allow newly eligible adults to enroll, which forced lawmakers to budget the money for the program.
Senators backed Parson’s request to provide funding for 5.5% raises for all state employees in an attempt to bolster the state’s strained workforce. But senators opted against including a minimum wage of $15 an hour as Parson proposed.
Another $2.8 billion is going to education, Senate Appropriations Chairman Dan Hegeman said, mostly in federal funding prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. About $1.7 million is going directly to school districts through federal Elementary and Secondary Education Emergency Relief Funding.
Roughly $444 million will prop up child care services in the state.