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Missouri Republicans face heat over Planned Parenthood money

June 29, 2021 GMT

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri anti-abortion advocates on Tuesday continued to push Republican lawmakers to use a special legislative session on a Medicaid funding tax to also block Planned Parenthood funding.

But with only days left before GOP Gov. Mike Parson’s Thursday deadline for lawmakers to renew the Medicaid tax, it seems unlikely that the Republican-led Legislature will succeed on the Planned Parenthood front.

“The ultimate question by pro-life Missourians will be: did we come out of this special session, with a pro-life majority of Republicans, still funding Planned Parenthood?” Missouri Right to Life Executive Director Susan Klein told the House Budget Committee during a Tuesday hearing.

The Budget Committee advanced two bills Tuesday: one to renew the tax, and one to block any government funding for Planned Parenthood.

The tax renewal only needs a vote by the full House to pass, but the Planned Parenthood legislation still would need to go to the Senate for approval if passed by the House. Senators have already left the Capitol after voting on the tax renewal Saturday.

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Parson called lawmakers back to work for the last-minute session to renew the tax on medical providers, which brings in billions of dollars in state and federal Medicaid funding. He’s threatened to cut at least $722 million if the Legislature doesn’t act by July 1, when the state’s next budget kicks in.

An effort to amend the tax-renewal bill to also block Planned Parenthood Medicaid funding failed in the GOP-led Senate last week.

Republican Sen. Bob Onder, the amendment sponsor, labeled a vote on Planned Parenthood funding as a test of his fellow Republican senators’ views on abortion.

But some other Republicans decried that depiction, arguing that pairing the amendment with the tax renewal could put billions of dollars in federal Medicaid funding at risk.

Republican Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz and Majority Leader Caleb Rowden described the bill passed by the chamber Saturday as “pro-life,” even though it doesn’t ban Planned Parenthood funding, because it protects health care “for Missouri’s neediest citizens.”

“Playing political games with billions of dollars of Missouri’s Medicaid funding, would have jeopardized our state budget and health care coverage for pregnant women, poor children, and the disabled,” the Senate leaders said.

Senate Republicans are already facing pushback from Missouri Right to Life, which is hugely influential in state GOP politics, for passing the tax renewal without a ban on Planned Parenthood funding.

“The Senate has made it clear they’re not willing to pass a pro-life bill,” Klein told the House Budget Committee.