JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The debate over defunding the state’s only abortion provider continues at the Missouri Capitol.
The goal of some Republican lawmakers and the Speaker of the House is to stop public funds from going toward any abortion provider. In Missouri, there’s only one left: Planned Parenthood.
When legislators were back in Jefferson City in June to renew the Federal Reimbursement Allowance (FRA) tax, Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, offered up a similar proposal in hopes of defunding Planned Parenthood.
The bill managed to pass the House 109-45 but failed to pass the finish line in the Senate.
“The Speaker did assure me that if that were to happen, that this would be one of the first bills that moves this year,” Schroer told the House Special Committee on Government Oversight on Wednesday.
“Defund Planned Parenthood pursuant to the Supreme Court decisions, giving guidance to the legislature and it also enacts protections at the state level to ensure that your taxes are not subsidizing the heinous act of abortion.”
A concern for some is jeopardizing millions of federal dollars for Missouri and services that fall under the state’s Medicaid program.
“One of the big concerns that I have with your bill is just flipping a switch, shutting it down and no more funding,” said Rep. Doug Clemens, D-St. Ann. “Where do these folks go?”
Schroer told committee members he does not believe this legislation risks any funds.
“Even if it was a dollar or a million dollars, what is the cost of the lives lost?” Schroer said. “It’s quite simple, stop partaking in the heinous act of abortion and you can be a qualified provider.”
House Bill 1854 states that public funds cannot be used on any abortion facility, an affiliate or an associate of such an abortion facility.
In 2020, there were 167 abortions performed in Missouri, 46 of those were at Planned Parenthood, the rest at hospitals across the state, like BJC Healthcare in the St. Louis area. Previously, in 2019, there were 1,368 abortions, compared to 2010 when there were more than 6,000.
Planned Parenthood in St. Louis is Missouri’s only abortion clinic, leaving women driving hours for services.
“Missouri has gotten so conservative on abortion that people are seeking out states like Kansas and Oklahoma to get an abortion,” Rep. Wes Rogers, D-Kansas City, said.
House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, is worried about how Missourians who use Planned Parenthood as a provider would be able to find a new practitioner.
“I’m really concerned about the nuts and bolts of this bill and whether or not places like BJC, like you highlighted, are going to be able to provide care to thousands of people who live here,” Quade said.
Clemens questioned Schroer why this is being rushed when there are other priorities lawmakers have to accomplish because they’re on a deadline.
“I see a supplemental budget we have to put to bed; we have to finish redistricting, we’ve got COVID running across the state of Missouri, we have work to do right here and I’m sitting here in this committee asking you questions about something we don’t need yet,” Clemens said.
Executive Director of Missouri Family Health Council Michelle Trupiano warned committee members if this legislation is passed, the state’s safety net of providers will break.
“The system is stretched beyond capacity,” Trupiano said. “What we know is that through our network providers, that almost 40,000 patients were served in 2020. Of that, about 45% of them were served by Planned Parenthood.”
Another part of this bill would nullify the federal government from saying the state has to use federal money to fund abortions.
“Very similar to the Second Amendment Preservation Act, a provision where we say this is our 10th Amendment right, we are not going to follow any federal law or any guidance that is going to require our taxpayer dollars to subsidize abortion,” Schroer said.
Chairman of the committee, Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Nixa, said members are expected to vote next week before the General Assembly gets to debate the topic again.
“We continue to be concerned about the number, the dollars, the checks that are being written by the state that are being sent to Planned Parenthood,” Executive Director of Missouri Right to Life Susan Klein said. “Nobody should be forced to pay for somebody else’s abortion.”
Back in 2019, the General Assembly passed a bill banning abortions in Missouri after eight weeks. The law does not allow exemptions for rape or incest survivors. A day before it took effect, a federal judge blocked it.
This fall, a federal court of appeals in St. Louis heard the case but has not said when a ruling would be released.