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Missouri GOP Lawmakers Work To Block Taxpayer Money From Funding Planned Parenthood

The Missouri House's top budgeter on Thursday said there should be "no loophole" in a state spending plan that would allow Planned Parenthood to continue to receive state funding. The Republican-led Legislature starting in 2016 opted to forgo some federal funding in an attempt to avoid requirements that Planned Parenthood be reimbursed if low-income patients go there for birth control, cancer screenings and other preventative care. Missouri instead now uses state money to pay for those services.

The Missouri House's top budgeter on Thursday said there should be "no loophole" in a state spending plan that would allow Planned Parenthood to continue to receive state funding.

The Republican-led Legislature starting in 2016 opted to forgo some federal funding in an attempt to avoid requirements that Planned Parenthood be reimbursed if low-income patients go there for birth control, cancer screenings and other preventative care. Missouri instead now uses state money to pay for those services.

But both Planned Parenthood and Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick said Thursday that lawmakers have so far not been successful in trying to block taxpayer money from going to the organization. Fitzpatrick said under the budget that lawmakers passed Wednesday "there should be no loophole that would allow abortion providers to have access" to that funding.

"The intention was to do that in past years," he said. "But unfortunately, some of the way the language was written allowed affiliate entities to funnel money through that way."

About a dozen women dressed like characters from "The Handmaid's Tale," a television series based on Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel in which women are forced to give birth, sat quietly in the House and Senate chambers and marched through the Missouri Capitol in protest Thursday.

M'Evie Mead, director of policy and organizing at Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri, said the change in the budget for next fiscal year "could absolutely mean that the patients who are seeking care for the programs at Planned Parenthood won't be able to get that care and that Planned Parenthood won't be able to be reimbursed for that care" through the health and social services departments.

"Of course Planned Parenthood's doors are going to stay open and we're going to try to ensure that all those patients get access to care," Mead said. "But the Legislature has just made a seriously politically motivated attempt to damage and discriminate against those patients."

The budget covers the fiscal year beginning in July.

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Associated Press writer Blake Nelson contributed to this report.

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