The budget proposed this week by the Missouri House attempts to strengthen an attempt started last year to defund abortion providers.
The current fiscal year’s budget includes language that intended to keep all money appropriated by it from going to hospitals or clinics that perform abortions. Yukon Republican Robert Ross proposed that prohibition, and said it needed to be strengthened.
“Despite that being a simple amendment last year, apparently [the Department of Social Services] was confused, and has chosen not to implement until recently … in this last month,” said Ross.
The House voted to adopt language offered by Ross for this year’s budget to use the definition of “abortion services” found elsewhere in state law. Republicans including Sonya Anderson of Springfield said they hope this will clarify to the Department the legislature’s intent.
“Time and time again we have heard from our constituents that they do not support their tax dollars being used to fund abortions. Last year we thought we had put a stop to this … yet here we are again a year later and Missouri is still sending taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood, an organization that is the largest abortion provider in Missouri,” said Anderson.
House Democrat leader Gail McCann Beatty called the amendment a “continued attack on women.”
“I think that amendment, while its target may be Planned Parenthood, this is going to cause some issues to our hospitals as well,” said McCann Beatty.
The statutory definition of “abortion services” includes not only performing abortions, but encouraging or referring a patient to have one. Raytown Representative Jerome Barnes (D) said that means facilities besides Planned Parenthood could lose money.
“Talking about abortion and providing fact-based information is not the same thing as providing abortions. While the amendment maker may indeed target one particular provider, I am very concerned that any women’s health provider could be swept up in this amendment,” said Barnes.
Kirkwood Representative Deb Lavender (D) said the healthcare of women statewide could suffer under the prohibition.
“We are now in this amendment saying if you refer somebody for an abortion out of your facility, we’re not going to pay. This now affects federally-qualified health facilities,” said Lavender. “Make no mistake: you think infant mortality in the Bootheel is high today? Wait until you pass this amendment because you are going to prevent women from getting healthcare.”
Democrats also argue that tax dollars are already prohibited from being used to pay for abortions, but Republicans including Anderson say that isn’t enough.
“The taxpayers’ money is still going to fund Planned Parenthood. It may not just be specifically for abortion but Planned Parenthood does offer abortion services in Missouri, so they do benefit from those taxpayer dollars,” said Anderson.
Ross’ amendment was adopted 115-35. It is now part of the proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 that the House has sent to the Senate for its consideration. The Senate will begin its work on that proposal next week.