JEFFERSON CITY - The fate of state funding for family planning at Columbia's Planned Parenthood and other Planned Parenthood clinics is before a state court today.
The case is the latest installment in the ongoing saga between anti-abortion lawmakers and Planned Parenthood. The lawmakers do not want the state to fund abortions, a service the organization has historically provided.
In the center of the dispute is a state law saying organizations like Planned Parenthood must separate their abortion services from the family planning side, if the organization still wants to receive state family planning funds.
In the law, separate indicates the organization's two services can't share names (or have similar names), facilities, expenses, salaries, staff, or equipment.
Jordan Cherrick, the state's appointed attorney, said the two organizations haven't sufficently seperated affliated abortions providers from the family planning service.
"We are asking that Planned Parenthood return the money it already received and that the court not permit Planned Parenthood to get future family planning money until they come under compliance with the law," said Cherrick, who is also representing the state in the partial-birth abortion law.
Planned Parenthood contends that they are in compliance with the law. The two sides of the organization -- the abortion side and family planning side -- do not share, the group says, because the abortion side reimburses the other for anything they both use.
"No state money goes to Comprehensive Health Services directly or indirectly," said Peter Brownlie, president of the Kansas and Mid-Missouri Planned Parenthood. Comprehensive Health Services is the "separate" abortion-providing entity of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.
Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri operates the clinics in Columbia, Sedalia, Jefferson City, Warrensburg, Fulton among others.
Cherrick said he intends to prove that the organization isn't obeying the law because its abortion affiliates share similar names and fixed expenses, refer patients to abortion providers, and market materials for them.
Cherrick is also asking for a judgment ruling that Missouri's Department of Health failed to obey the law when it contracted to fund Planned Parenthood despite the legislature's concerns.
Sen. Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, is one legislator that finds fault with the Department of Health's contract.
"This is just another chapter when the Carnahan administration is not following the law," Kinder said. "We have to haul them into court and get them to obey the law."
Sen. Joe Maxwell, D-Mexico, said he agrees that state money shouldn't go to fund abortions, but he does support the Health Department's contract.
Brownlie said all this political fighting leaves behind those who need Planned Parenthood's help.
"The people who are the pawns in this are the women who need family planning services," Brownlie said.
If they do lose the family planning money, he said Planned Parenthood will try to find the other funds and remain open. "But we can't promise anything," he said.
Cherrick said the two organizations don't have to close.
"We're not shutting them down," he said. "They just have to comply."