Missouri enacts legislation to block Planned Parenthood from Medicaid funding

(OSV News) -- Missouri's Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed legislation May 9 that revives an effort to block Planned Parenthood from the state's Medicaid program.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court's June 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision that reversed its previous abortion precedent, Missouri banned abortion in most circumstances. Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, states on its local affiliate website that it no longer performs abortions in Missouri. But Planned Parenthood also indicates that abortions can be accessed across state lines at its clinics in Southern Illinois.

Supporters of allowing Planned Parenthood to receive Medicaid funds point to that group's involvement in cancer screening and prevention services -- such as pap tests and HPV vaccinations -- but critics argue the funds are fungible and could be used to facilitate abortion despite the state's prohibition.

Planned Parenthood's Medicaid funding has long been a target of its pro-life critics, and state lawmakers have previously attempted to block the organization from Missouri's Medicaid program, also known as MO HealthNet. In February, the Missouri Supreme Court found that lawmakers' earlier attempt to defund Planned Parenthood was unconstitutional.

The new legislation, HB 2634, ends Medicaid reimbursements to any health care providers affiliated with abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood.

"Our administration has been the strongest pro-life administration in Missouri history," Parson said in a statement. "We've ended all elective abortions in this state, approved new support for mothers, expecting mothers, and children, and, with this bill, ensured that we are not sending taxpayer dollars to abortion providers for any purpose. We thank members of the General Assembly for recognizing this important issue and sending this legislation to my desk."

A statement from Planned Parenthood Great Plains and Planned Parenthood of St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri said Parson's "decision to sign this bill into law is deeply disappointing and harmful to the tens of thousands of Missourians who rely on Planned Parenthood for essential health care."

"This bill not only defies the ruling of Missouri's highest court but also flouts federal Medicaid law," the statement said. "By denying Medicaid patients' right to receive health care from Planned Parenthood, politicians are directly obstructing access to much-needed health services, including birth control, cancer screenings, annual wellness exams, and STI (sexually transmitted infection) testing and treatment."

The statement further argued that other providers "cannot absorb the thousands of patients impacted by this 'defunding' attack. For this reason, Planned Parenthood health centers have worked to keep serving MO HealthNet patients at no cost though it is an unsustainable model for a state's health care system."

Pro-life groups, however, applauded the legislation.

"We applaud Gov. Parson and Republicans for standing up for the rights of girls and parents against the predatory abortion industry," Sue Liebel, midwest regional director for SBA Pro-Life America, said in a statement.

Liebel added, "We must continue to fight for parents as Planned Parenthood attempts to put an abortion measure on the ballot to wipe parental consent off the books and remove health and safety regulations that protect women and girls."

Chelsey Youman, national legislative advisor for Human Coalition Action, said in a statement the group appreciates Parson "for his strong leadership in signing pro-life policies into law in Missouri: protections for children in the womb, support for mothers, and now blocking taxpayer funding of abortion facilities. This is what pro-life leadership looks like."

"Life is a winning issue," Youman said, "and pro-life voters will back any candidate who presents a compelling pro-life vision and enacts strong policies protecting children and supporting vulnerable mothers."

The new law is scheduled to go into effect Aug. 28.

Pro-life legislation in Missouri may face a significant test at the ballot box in November. A constitutional amendment to legalize abortion turned in more than 380,000 voter signatures by May 3 -- more than double the 171,000 required to qualify for the ballot -- which election officials must process by July 30 in order to verify whether the measure can be placed on the ballot.

Missouri's Catholic bishops have urged Catholics and people of good will to oppose the initiative, saying it "does nothing to reduce or eliminate the underlying social causes for abortion and does not further a true culture of life in the state."

- - - Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington. Follow her on X (formerly known as Twitter) @kgscanlon.