In Defense of Innocent Lives
This week, the General Assembly passed legislation to renew Missouri’s Federal Reimbursement Allowance program. The FRA is a critical component of the state budget because it funds nearly 40% of Missouri’s Medicaid program. The program, which was slated to expire in September, came up for renewal during the regular legislative session that ended in May, but the Legislature was not able to come to terms prior to the close of session.
The issue that made the normally routine renewal of the FRA program contentious was two amendments relating to abortion and funding for abortion providers. With the new administration in Washington, D.C., there is serious concern that taxpayers could be forced to fund abortions. The White House has announced it intends to strip the Hyde Amendment, a longstanding prohibition against federal dollars being used to fund abortions, from the next federal budget. Missouri has its own version of the Hyde Amendment, a provision in state statutes that forbids taxpayer funding of abortions, but the situation is less clear when it comes to Planned Parenthood, the only remaining provider of abortion services in Missouri. While state tax money doesn’t pay for abortions per se, Planned Parenthood still receives reimbursement for other women’s health services.
Previous state budgets have included language that says no money can go to abortion providers, but the Missouri Supreme Court recently ended that practice, ruling that we cannot legislate through the appropriations process. One amendment added to this year’s FRA bill was an attempt to block funding for Planned Parenthood, while staying consistent with the court’s ruling. The other amendment addressed non-surgical abortions, which are the primary method still used in Missouri. Not surprisingly, these amendments met strong resistance, and the 2021 regular session ended without the FRA being renewed. With Missouri’s fiscal year ending on June 30, and the FRA about to expire, the governor called the Legislature back to the Capitol.
Prior to the start of the extra legislative session, I joined with Senate colleagues in asking the governor to include measures to protect the lives of the unborn. I supported the pro-life amendments to the FRA and proudly urged the governor and my colleagues in the Senate to join me. Ultimately, the FRA renewal legislation approved by the Senate included a watered-down version of the original pro-life amendments. Senate Bill 1, which was passed with no changes by the House of Representatives, states only that no state funding will be provided for “abortions or any abortifacient drug or device that is used for the purpose of inducing an abortion.”
I am disappointed the Legislature was not able to pass stronger pro-life restrictions as part of the FRA renewal. I particularly regret that we did not specifically defund Planned Parenthood. All is not lost, however. The governor has indicated that he’s open to restricting funding of Planned Parenthood through the rule making process. Texas and Arkansas have followed a similar approach and, so far, the federal government has allowed those restrictions to proceed.
Although the extra legislative session did not produce the result I would have liked, I am committed to ensuring Missouri taxpayer dollars are not used to fund abortion. We currently have a state statute that forbids public funding of abortion, and I will continue to look for ways to strengthen that prohibition.
As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-4302. You may also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.