Missouri high court says Planned Parenthood can receive funding; cites failed appeal by state

Feb 14, 2024, 4:37 PM

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the latest attempt by Republican state officials to block taxpayer dollars from going to Planned Parenthood, citing a failure in the state’s legal appeal.

The high court’s decision upholds a ruling by a trial judge, who found that a 2022 funding bill violated the state constitution. The budget bill sought to bar Medicaid health care dollars from going to Planned Parenthood because its affiliates elsewhere performed abortions. But the Supreme Court’s ruling was based on procedural grounds, not the merits of the claims.

The court said a trial judge had blocked the provisions in the funding bill for two reasons — because they violated the state constitution’s requirement that legislation contain a single subject and because they infringed on equal protection rights. The Supreme Court said Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s office failed to appeal the equal protection claim and it thus must stand. As a result, the court said there was no reason to address the single-subject claim.

Bailey’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Planned Parenthood said in a statement that the court had reaffirmed patients’ rights to receive its services for such things as cancer screenings and birth control.

“Over and over again, the courts have rejected politicians’ ongoing attempts to deprive patients of their health care by unconstitutionally kicking Planned Parenthood out of the Medicaid program,” the organization said in a joint statement from Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, and Emily Wales, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains.

Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature has tried for years to block any health care funding from going to Planned Parenthood because of its association with abortion. That has continued even though Planned Parenthood no longer performs abortions in Missouri. A state law prohibiting most abortions took effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a nationwide right to abortion in June 2022.

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 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.

Lawmakers have been trying since then to reinstate a ban on funding for Planned Parenthood. A bill to create such a prohibition, separate from the budget, faced Democratic opposition when it was brought up for Senate debate earlier this month.

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Missouri high court says Planned Parenthood can receive funding; cites failed appeal by state