Members of the Missouri House of Representatives met Tuesday to discuss the state’s 2017 budget. The result? Nearly $380,000 in cuts and a plan to strip all Planned Parenthood funding from the budget. MO House Republicans led the movement, saying they didn’t think any state money should go toward funding abortions. They ignored, however, the many other services Planned Parenthood provides to Missouri residents and women everywhere. Based on the state’s budget from 2014, these Planned Parenthood cuts will likely affect cervical exams, HPV vaccines, and birth control—making this budget bill a serious and unreasonable threat to women’s health.
So explain this budget bill to me.
This entire conversation is about allocating funds for the state of Missouri. Though referred to as the “2017 budget,” whatever decisions are made go into effect beginning July 1. The House began by cutting funding from the University of Missouri system, and Tuesday, members of the House added an amendment that cut Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood out of the equation. Money that is cut from these institutions will go toward funding K-12 education, transportation, and Lincoln University, a school in Jefferson City. Another amendment to the bill prevents the Missouri Department of National Resources from implementing President Obama’s federal Clean Power Plan, but that’s another conversation entirely.
And what do both sides have to say for themselves?
Robert Ross, a Republican representative of the state, led the movement for the Planned Parenthood cuts. He said he didn’t want any state money funding abortions. The democratic side argued on behalf of the many other services Planned Parenthood provides, such as pregnancy tests and STD screening. Democratic representative Gail McCann Beatty went as far as saying, “For the last time, stay out of our uterus.” But other Republican representatives argued that Planned Parenthood’s services could be found elsewhere, in federally qualified health care centers. These centers offer women the same things without providing abortions, Republican representative Donna Lichtenegger stated. However, recent research out of Texas, where Planned Parenthood was fully defunded in 2013, actually found that the opposite happens—there isn’t necessarily a dearth of other options providing the same services that Planned Parenthood does. In the case of Texas, the rate of childbirth went way up, thanks to a correlative reduction in the number of women receiving long-acting reversible birth control (something Planned Parenthood definitely provides).
Where is this coming from?
The budget bill is the result of a lengthy debate surrounding abortion rights in the state. Last summer, anti-abortion activists released videos falsely alleging that Planned Parenthood sold fetal body parts. The fraudulent videos caused quite the commotion, resulting in eight states defunding the organization (Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Texas, Utah). Republican lawmakers in Missouri also investigated the claims. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster found no evidence to support the allegations, and after fruitless investigations from 11 other states, the activists were indicted by a Texas grand jury. Despite all this, Missouri state lawmakers (among others) continue their ceaseless drumbeat to defund Planned Parenthood.
Can you tell me a little more about Planned Parenthood?
Planned Parenthood is a healthcare provider that focuses on advocating for women’s rights and educating women about their options. The organization offers a variety of services, including: birth control prescriptions, vaccinations (flu, tetanus), physical exams, screenings (diabetes, STD, thyroid, high blood pressure, etc.), emergency contraception, pap smears, and more. Only 3 percent of services provided by Planned Parenthood are abortions.
What happens next?
The House is waiting on one more vote. Once that vote is in, the bill will head to the Senate, where it will be up for further debate. Officials in the Department of Social Services have previously said states can’t limit Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood just because they don’t approve of the services it provides—something the Department of Health and Human Services issued a memo about in 2011. Two states, Indiana and Arizona, have tried to cut Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood in the past. Both lost after successful suits brought by Planned Parenthood. If Missouri succeeds in defunding, the best case scenario is the same fate befalls this law as well.
As of right now, there are 14 Planned Parenthood facilities in Missouri. Only one, the St. Louis center, provides abortions. If passed, this bill would effectively cut funding to all 14, despite their lack of abortion services (and to say nothing of the fact that abortion is a legal medical procedure that the Supreme Court has ruled to be a constitutional right). Planned Parenthood is reportedly analyzing how these cuts would affect their facilities and suggested these changes may disproportionately affect low-income patients—a result that is both unfair and unacceptable. The House plans to send the bill to the Senate by the end of the week. A decision will be made within the next few months, as the budget goes into effect in July of this year.
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