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Missouri Supreme Court hears case over state efforts to defund Planned Parenthood

The Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region & Southwest Missouri clinic on Wednesday, April 19, 2023, in the Central West End.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
The Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis in April. The organization is again in court over the Missouri legislature's attempts at blocking Medicaid reimbursements.

The Missouri legislature’s decision to allocate nothing in Medicaid reimbursements for services done by any facility or affiliate where abortions are performed, including Planned Parenthood, was argued before the Missouri Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The hearing comes three years after the same court ruled 6-1 that the state legislature must pay Planned Parenthood for treating Medicaid patients.

Now, the issue is again before the state’s highest court after the legislature put no funding in its 2022 supplemental budget in Medicaid reimbursements for organizations like Planned Parenthood.

The organization sued, and Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem ruled in its favor.

In that decision, Beetem said the state couldn’t block the reimbursement funds to Planned Parenthood when they are available to other health care providers.

The state is appealing that decision on behalf of the Missouri Department of Social Services, saying Planned Parenthood did not exhaust administrative remedies before suing.

Joshua Divine, solicitor general for the attorney general’s office, argued before the court that upholding the decision in favor of Planned Parenthood would gut the legislature’s ability to craft the budget.

“The legislature could no longer use appropriations to prioritize facilities in urban areas, facilities in rural areas, facilities in low-income areas, or even facilities with demonstrated safety records,” Divine said. “Instead, the legislature would be limited to a binary choice, fund everything or fund nothing.”

Chuck Hatfield, representing Planned Parenthood, said that the legislature does have the power of the purse in Missouri’s government and can make appropriations during tough budget years, but that it cannot “exclude and amend substantive law.”

Hatfield used judicial funding as an example.

“The legislature says, ‘This year, we don't have enough money for the judiciary. We're going to provide funding for the Eastern District of the Court of Appeals and the Western District of the Court of Appeals, and we'll provide $2 to the Southern District Court of Appeals, because we're short money.’ Of course, they cannot do that,” Hatfield said.

Although Missouri’s Medicaid program does not provide reimbursements for abortions, Planned Parenthood provides other health care services like STD and cancer screenings as well as providing contraceptives.

Emily Wales, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said patients deserve to receive care from the provider they choose, including Planned Parenthood.

“To be clear, they want us providing services. They need us in the Medicaid program. They need us to see Missourians because we don't have enough providers in this state. They just don't want to pay for it. And that's not fair to our patients, and we're going to fight for them,” Wales said.

Meanwhile, Divine said the case is about the legislature’s autonomy.

“I think this is really about the legislature's ability to respond to the people of Missouri and decide where should our limited taxpayer funds go,” Divine said.

Though the court is again deciding a case over Medicaid reimbursements for Planned Parenthood, the makeup of the Supreme Court itself has changed since 2020.

Three new judges, appointed by Republican Gov. Mike Parson, now sit on the court. This was the first case heard by the court's newest member, Ginger Gooch. She and Kelly Broniec were both recently appointed by Parson.

The court did not indicate when it would rule on the case

Sarah Kellogg is a Missouri Statehouse and Politics Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio and other public radio stations across the state.