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Planned Parenthood sues Missouri for defunding

March 10, 2022 GMT

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Planned Parenthood on Thursday sued Missouri over an attempt to block it from receiving any public funding.

At issue is a bill passed by the Republican-led Legislature and signed by GOP Gov. Mike Parson last month to stop reimbursing Planned Parenthood for health care for low-income Medicaid patients, including clinics that do not provide abortions.

The provision was included in a stopgap budget that covers state expenses for the next few months.

Missouri-area Planned Parenthood organizations in the lawsuit said the state has said it will stop reimbursing clinics at the end of the day Friday.

Planned Parenthood asked that the funding bill be ruled unconstitutional and that a judge order Missouri to continue paying it.

Regardless of whether the state stops paying, Planned Parenthood leaders said they’ll continue treating Medicaid recipients.

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“While we fight this defunding in court, Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri will continue serving MO HealthNet patients at no cost to them,” Yamelsie Rodríguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said in a statement.

Still, lawyers wrote in the lawsuit that ending Medicaid reimbursement will force Planned Parenthood “to curtail its patient care, leaving patients without the critical care they need.”

Planned Parenthood also called out Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration for not stepping in to help.

Parson spokeswoman Kelli Jones said in a statement that his administration is bound carry out the laws the Legislature passes. She said whether what Missouri lawmakers did is legal will be up to the courts to decide.

“Other state legislatures have placed similar limitations on their Medicaid programs and ultimately the courts will adjudicate cases and controversies that arise from this kind of legislation,” Jones said.

The Missouri Attorney General’s Office didn’t immediately respond to an Associated Press request for comment Thursday.

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.

Republican lawmakers are hopeful the latest attempt to defund Planned Parenthood won’t be tossed out again by the courts.

“I hope they lose,” Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden said. ”We don’t want to fund Planned Parenthood – we never have.”

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Associated Press writer David A. Lieb contributed to this report.