JEFFERSON CITY - Legislators may have found a way to keep Planned Parenthood away from state money, while promoting family planning.
The House of Representatives overwhelming passed a measure Wednesday that would create local government-run family planning agencies.
Proposed by Rep. Charles Shields, R-St. Joseph, the measure is included in the state's public services budget, which passed Thursday. The bill would allocate $11.4 million to create the government-run family planning centers.
"You have to fund the infrastructure of family planning," Shields said. "Local health departments have different services, and this bill would give money to create family planning services."
These government-run programs, however, would not be permitted to perform abortions, as Missouri statute prohibits state funding for abortions.
Since the funding only would go to government entities, the legislature appears to have found a fool-proof loophole to exclude Planned Parenthood. The clinics perform abortions and abortion-rights opponents have complained taxpayer money is used to indirectly pay for abortions.
All three Boone County representatives, who are all abortion-rights supporters, voted against funding family planning by local agencies.
"They are going to spend thousands of dollars to buy equipment, find space to set up a service when we've already got an organization that already does that in town," Graham said.
Some see the proposal as just another mandate on county government.
"I think we already have the services with Planned Parenthood," said County Commissioner Karen Miller. "It would be a duplication of services."
The bill would require that local governments create these new services, and the governments would not be allowed to contract the services to another organization.
"We, as a state, are forcing counties to do family planning services," Graham said. "I don't know where they would put it...the third floor of the county building so you can go pay property taxes and get a pap smear all at once?"
Planned Parenthood is not the only organization that would miss out on family planning funding under this bill. It would also hurt private family planning centers that do not perform abortions.
In order to exclude Planned Parenthood, abortion-rights opponents said cutting private family planning clinic funding is a necessary casualty.
"They can't participate in state funding because Planned Parenthood has ignored the will of the legislature," Shields said. "If Planned Parenthood voluntarily said they would not seek state funds, then the language in the bill would not have to be there, and the other services could receive money."
Legislators have tried to block Planned Parenthood funding, but have failed two years in a row. Last year, the Planned Parenthood funding debate stalled the budget bill passage and dragged the legislature into a special session.
Shields said he thinks the language in this year's bill is clearly defined and constitutional, and he expects it to pass out of the Senate as easily as it did in the House.