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Furhter Fighting over family planning money

February 17, 1999
By: Clayton Bellamy
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The battle between anti-abortionist legislators and Planned Parenthood has heated up.

Concerned about Planned Parenthood's interpretation of a Feb. 3 U.S. Appeals Court decision, anti-abortion legislators asked state's attorney Jordan Cherrick to file for a clarification of the decision that Republican Sen. David Klarich said "was clear in upholding the legislature's authority to withhold funds from any group that performs abortions."

"Planned Parenthood is confused about the decision," Cherrick said. "We want to resolve the misunderstanding."

Included in Cherrick's motion was a request to require Planned Parenthood to return the funds it has received from the state. Planned Parenthood has received $509,850 since July 1, 1998.

"According to the court's decision, Planned Parenthood was never entitled to receive the money," Cherrick said.

On Feb. 3, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out Planned Parenthood's lawsuit seeking state family planning funds. The state legislature passed a law saying no group that performs abortions could receive state funding. A lower court had upheld the lawsuit, ruling the law unconstitutional and paving the way for Planned Parenthood to receive state funding.

Erika Fox, spokesman for Planned Parenthood, said the organization should not have to repay the funds.

"It's not appropriate for the state to reclaim funds for family planning services we've already provided," Fox said.

Planned Parenthood has interpreted the case to mean that as long as they keep their abortion services "reasonably separate" from their family planning services, they could not be excluded from funding.

"The decision is clear that Planned Parenthood cannot be disqualified because they provide abortions with private funds," Fox said. "We have kept our services separate all along."

Cherrick said Planned Parenthood could still receive family planning funds if the abortion services and family planning services used different names, different facilities, formed separate corporations and didn't hand out abortion pamphlets to family planning customers.

The Department of Health, believing the decision ordered them to establish just how separated abortion services needed to be from family planning services, had intended to announce new requirements this week.

After learning of Cherrick's motion, they have decided to hold off until the court clarifies its earlier decision.