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Planned Parenthood, Right to Life oppose Missouri tax bill

June 24, 2021 GMT

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Planned Parenthood and Missouri Right to Life on Thursday told a state Senate panel that legislation seeking to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood would in effect be “useless.”

Both groups testified against the legislation in an odd moment of unity during a special session over a critical Medicaid funding tax.

Angie Postal, the vice president of education policy and community engagement for Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said its clinics already don’t get any funding through the state’s family planning services program for uninsured women, which is what the pending bills seek to ban.

“You just heard from Planned Parenthood that language... that would prevent our public tax dollars from going to pay for abortion, is useless,” Missouri Right to Life Executive Director Susan Klein said.

Klein said lawmakers need to find another way to ban state funding for Planned Parenthood.

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Anti-abortion lawmakers this year tried to end funding for Planned Parenthood by adding the ban to a must-pass tax that brings in a critical chunk of Medicaid funding. Disagreement over doing so derailed efforts to renew the tax during lawmakers’ regular session, which ended last month.

Lawmakers now are scrambling to renew the tax on hospitals, pharmacies, nursing homes and ambulances, which expires Sept. 30.

Republican Sen. Dan Hegeman, the Senate budget leader, on Thursday said the tax itself brings in roughly $1.5 billion. That money is leveraged for another $2.7 billion in federal Medicaid funding.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson has threatened to cut $722 million from the state budget July 1 if lawmakers don’t reup the tax before then.

Organizations that represent nursing homes, hospitals, firefighters and other medical providers pleaded with senators to renew the tax during the Thursday hearing.

Nikki Strong, the executive director of the nursing home and assisted living group Missouri Healthcare Association, said without the tax, “every Medicaid facility will be out of business.” She said there are no abortions in nursing homes.

“It’s crazy that you’re even engaged in this fight,” said Republican Sen. Mike Cierpiot, who has questioned entangling the anti-abortion fight to the tax. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

Lawmakers also are considering whether to block Medicaid payments for abortion medications, as well as intrauterine devices and the morning-after pill “when those are used to induce an abortion.”

Dr. Colleen McNicholas, the chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, has said that emergency contraception and IUDs do not cause abortions.

It’s unclear what effect, if any, stopping state reimbursement for those medications when “used to induce an abortion” will have in Missouri.