JEFFERSON CITY - An amendment aimed at keeping state funds from abortion providers was passed by the House Thursday as a compromise in the legislative dispute over abortion.
Under the compromise, more than $6 million for family planning services would be pulled from private clinics and given to local public health agencies which cannot, under Missouri law, perform or counsel on abortion.
The amendment was a legal solution for abortion opponents who want to keep funds from Planned Parenthood, an organization which sometimes performs abortions in addition to providing other reproductive health services. Last year, a law targeting the organization was declared invalid for discriminating among health care providers.
Even though this budget item does not include abortions, abortion opponents do not want Planned Parenthood to receive any state funds.
One of the legislators who worked on the amendment, Rep. David Reynolds, D-St. Louis County, drew an analogy to explain his position.
"If you were to think that Hitler was the most evil person on the world, would you let him be on your ball team if he promised not to kill any Jews?" Reynolds said. "I think they're evil. Their concept is evil, whether they perform abortions with this money or not."
"If there's any legal way, within the Constitution, that we can prevent them from being funded... that's our goal." Reynolds said. "It is not our goal to deny women access to family planning or reproductive health services."
But some legislators worry that moving funds away from private clinics will negatively affect women's health care.
Rep. Robert Clayton, D-Hannibal, does not want funds taken away from the private family planning clinic in his district. "The dedication they have in serving the poor women of our community is very important," he said.
Clayton emphasized the clinic's role there, explaining that they continue to operate despite being burned down several months ago.
"They continue to work...they care about the health of the people. The substitute amendment will take all of the state money away from them." he said. "I do not know if they will be able to operate."
Urging his colleagues to vote against the amendment, Clayton said, "It is not a compromise between the various sides here. It is not good for the women of this state.
Rep. Tim Van Zandt, D-Kansas City, spoke against the amendment. He warned that access to family planning services would be reduced because although all counties have health departments, 34 of those do not have facilities to offer any kind of medical service but only serve in an administrative function.
"It will cause great hardship for women in these counties," Van Zandt said.
The appropriations bill is now free to go for a final vote before the House.