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Mo. Senate advances budget bill targeting Planned Parenthood; lawmakers vote to hold Planned Parenthood official in contempt

The Missouri Senate on Thursday passed a $27 billion budget that would prohibit abortion providers in the state from receiving Medicaid funding, the St. Louis Dispatch's "Political Fix" reports (Erickson, "Political Fix," St. Louis Dispatch, 4/7).

According to the AP/Belleville News-Democrat, state lawmakers now will reconcile the Senate measure -- which includes 13 distinct bills -- with the House version of the budget (Aton, AP/Belleville News-Democrat, 4/7). The state House and Senate have until May 6 to finalize the budget and send it to Gov. Jay Nixon (D). If signed, it takes on July 1 ("Political Fix," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 4/7).

Budget details

Under the Senate's proposed budget, the state would be prohibited from allocating any public funds to abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood, for health services including vaccinations and pelvic exams. State law already bars abortion providers from using public funds to provide most abortion care (AP/Belleville News-Democrat, 4/7).

According to "Political Fix," the bill would end about $8 million that Missouri receives in federal Medicaid funding.

Comments

State Sen. Jason Holsman (D) expressed concern about the provision, saying, "It's pouring salt into an already really, really bad decision."

Separately, state Sen. Jill Schupp (D), who also opposed the provision, criticized conservative state lawmakers for "sneak[ing]" in the defunding provision without holding a formal debate ("Political Fix," St. Louis Dispatch, 4/7). Schupp noted that the provision would make it more difficult for low-income women to access contraception (AP/Belleville News-Democrat, 4/7).

Mo. Senate committee vote to hold Planned Parenthood official in contempt

In related news, a Missouri Senate committee on Thursday voted to hold a regional Planned Parenthood official and the owner of a pathology lab that works with fetal tissue in contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena, the Washington Post's "The Fix" reports.

According to "The Fix," if the full state Senate approves the contempt charges, the two individuals could face up to 10 days jail time, a $300 fine or both (Phillips, "The Fix," Washington Post, 4/7).

Background

Conservative lawmakers in Missouri established a Senate committee to investigate abortion practices in the state after an antiabortion-rights group released a series of misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood. The investigation is one of several recent state efforts targeting Planned Parenthood and restricting access to abortion.

In November 2015, the committee issued a subpoena calling for Mary Kogut, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, to provide lawmakers with all consent forms patients signed during the process of receiving care at the St. Louis affiliate. The subpoena also requests materials that reference two Planned Parenthood staff members targeted in the misleading videos.

In response, Planned Parenthood in a letter to state Senate President pro tempore Ron Richard (R) said providing certain documentation would violate federal law on patient privacy. The organization also questioned the state Senate's authority to issue subpoenas on private organizations. In addition, the organization noted there is an "increased concern over the sensitivity of abortion-related records," especially after a fatal shooting last November at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado.

Moreover, Kogut stated that Planned Parenthood's clinic in St. Louis, the only Planned Parenthood facility in the state that provides abortion care, does not donate fetal tissue. She also cited a review by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster (D) that found the organization did not commit any wrongdoing, noting that Planned Parenthood "believe[s] the issue has been resolved."

Earlier this month, state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R) filed resolutions (SR 1793, SR 1794) calling for Kogut and the owner of a pathology lab that reviews tissue from Planned Parenthood to come before the state Senate on April 18 and provide an explanation as to why they have not provided the requested information (Women's Health Care Policy Report, 4/6).