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Missouri Must Pay Planned Parenthood For Treating Medicaid Patients, Court Rules

Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region is the last provider of abortion services in Missouri. It could lose its license this week.
File photo | David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio
Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region is the last provider of abortion services in Missouri.

The Missouri Department of Social Services must pay Planned Parenthood for providing care for Medicaid patients, the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

State lawmakers cut funding for the provider in the 2018 budget by inserting language that barred state funds, including those from the state’s Medicaid program MO HealthNet, from going to any abortion provider.

In a6-1 decision, the Missouri Supreme Court affirmed a 2019 ruling from a lower court that found the provision was an example of lawmakers using a budget bill to create policy, which is prohibited by the Missouri Constitution.

State laws “plainly and unambiguously provide that MO HealthNet ‘shall’ use appropriated funds to pay any authorized provider that renders covered services to Medicaid-eligible individuals,” Judge Paul C. Wilson wrote in the decision. “When the meaning of the general law is clear, there is no need for ‘guidance’ in an appropriation bill.”

While federal law prohibits any government money from being used to fund abortions, Missouri lawmakers sought to prohibit all state funding for the provider, regardless of its use.

Planned Parenthood provides physicals, pap smears, birth control and other health procedures. Of the 11 Planned Parenthood clinics in Missouri, only one provides abortions.

Thousands of Planned Parenthood patients in Missouri use Medicaid, the state health insurance plan for poor families and disabled people, to access those services,officials from the organization have said.

"Missourians need access to health care, and today’s decision is a great win for patients who rely on Planned Parenthood for sexual and reproductive health care,” said Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.

The ruling marks a second win for the provider in recent weeks. In late May, a state commissioner declared the state health department needed to reinstate Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services’ license to provide abortions.

The state had last year attempted to withhold the license, citing what officials called unsafe conditions. The commissioner said there was no evidence of danger at the St. Louis facility.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @petit_smudge

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Sarah Fentem is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.