JEFFERSON CITY - The latest battle in an ongoing war between the state and Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri is set to unfold in the Missouri Supreme Court on Thursday.
At the center of the debate is an appropriations law prohibiting state family-planning money from going to organizations that offer or promote abortions.
Lawmakers who drafted the language said they intended that the law block Planned Parenthood from getting state funds. But after the bill was passed in the spring of 1999, Missouri's Health Department decided to continue giving the organization family-planning funds, saying Planned Parenthood had sufficiently separated its abortion-related activities from other services.
"The bill talks about sharing," said Nanci Gonder, spokeswoman for the Missouri Health Department. "They cannot share facilities or administrative activities with any subsidiaries."
But this past November, a private attorney hired by the state to enforce the law took Planned Parenthood and the Health Department to court.
As part of a budget compromise, anti-abortion legislators had secured an administration agreement that a private lawyer would be hired to seek enforcement of the law since the attorney general is representing the Health Department.
Cole County Circuit Court Judge Byron Kinder ruled that Planned Parenthood was not eligible for family-planning funds because of the appropriation restriction. He ordered the state to cease funding the organization and also ordered Planned Parenthood to repay money it had received from the Missouri.
Both the state Health Department and Planned Parenthood contend the organization has sufficiently separated its family planning and abortion services and, thus, should be eligible for state money.
"We have two separate corporations," said Peter Brownlie, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. "The corporation that provides abortion services is a separate entity. It has its own space, its own staff. ... We have done all we can to ensure no state money goes to abortion services."
But critics say Planned Parenthood has not separated its two arms according to the law. The appropriations language requires that an organization's family planning and abortion services must have separate names, staff and locations, among other things, to receive state money. Patty Skain, executive director of Missouri Right to Life, said that, as of last year, Planned Parenthood had not met those terms.
"The legislature has determined what they define as separate," she said. "Based on that language, I would have to say, no, (Planned Parenthood's services) are not separate. I think they keep their bookeeping separate, and that's all."
Brownlie said last year's circuit court decision already has had a detrimental effect on Planned Parenthood, which had received state funding since 1993. He said the Kansas City chapter of his organization has had to do without the $630,000 it normally receives each year, which has hurt the group's ability to provide family planning services.
"Women in Missouri are entitled, according to the legislature, to good family planning services," he said. "I wish the other side would do what it has mandated for us, which is separate family planning and abortion. The best way to prevent abortion is with family planning."
Skain said she has no problem with Planned Parenthood receiving state money for family planning as long as the group complies with Missouri law.
"Our intent is to keep this money from in any way encouraging, promoting or providing abportion services," she said.