Missouri lawmakers try again to block Medicaid money from going to Planned Parenthood

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s Republican lawmakers are again trying to prevent federal health care dollars from going to the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics, this time weeks after the Missouri Supreme Court thwarted an earlier attempt to end that funding.

The Republican-led House on Wednesday gave initial approval to a bill that would prevent Medicaid funding from going to Planned Parenthood, which is already banned under state law from performing abortions in almost all circumstances.

Republican lawmakers argued that no public funding should go to the organization, which provides abortions in other states.

“When you do business with an entity like Planned Parenthood, you are ultimately subsidizing those abortion services, even if they are in other states,” bill sponsor Cody Smith said during the debate on Wednesday.

House Democrats said the ban will limit low-income residents’ choices in where they go for health care, such as cancer screenings and birth control. In some parts of the state, Democratic Rep. Patty Lewis said this could mean blocking access to those services altogether.

“In the state of Missouri, defunding Planned Parenthood services means affordable access for our constituents,” Lewis said.

The measure still needs an approval vote in the House before it can move to the Senate.

A similar effort to block Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood stalled in the GOP-led Senate earlier this month after a Democrat tried to amend the bill to allow exceptions for rape and incest under the current state ban on almost all abortions. Missouri banned abortion in 2022 except in cases of medical emergencies.

Lawmakers were previously able to prevent money from going to Planned Parenthood in the 2019 budget year by forgoing federal funding to prevent the clinics from being reimbursed when low-income patients went there for contraception, cancer screenings and other preventive care. Missouri instead used state money to pay for these services.

But the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that lawmakers violated the state Constitution by making the policy change through the state budget instead of a separate bill, forcing the state to reimburse Planned Parenthood for health care provided to Medicaid patients .

Republican lawmakers are acting with greater urgency this year after the Missouri Supreme Court earlier this month rejected another attempt by Republican state officials to block taxpayer money from going to Planned Parenthood, citing a failure in the state’s legal appeal.

The Supreme Court’s decision upheld a judge’s ruling that a 2022 funding law violated the state constitution. The Supreme Court said Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s office failed to appeal the claim that the law violates equal protection rights, so the law should stand.

There are also efforts underway to amend the state constitution to protect abortion rights. Supporters are now working to collect more than 170,000 voter signatures by May 5 to get on the November ballot.